Belgian court jails top jihadist recruiter Zerkani for 15 years

  • AFP, Brussels
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2016 00:04 IST
Belgium police officers secure the access during a police operation in Etterbeeck, near Brussels, Belgium. (REUTERS)

A Belgium appeals court on Thursday sentenced top jihadist recruiter Khalid Zerkani to 15 years in prison after convicting him of enlisting dozens of people, including key suspects in the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Zerkani is “the biggest recruiter of jihadists Belgium has ever known,” Federal Prosecutor Bernard Michel said during a court hearing in February.

Zerkani was originally jailed in July 2015 to 12 years behind bars, even before the Islamic State attacks in Paris and Brussels that killed 162 people.

Zerkani, 42, was arrested by police in 2014 after he defied authorities for years with his off-the-radar recruitment of jihadists for Syria in the gritty Molenbeek district in Brussels.

His recruits included suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui and Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abbaoud, court documents showed.

Read: Khalid Zerkani, the IS ‘emir’ at the heart of Brussels terrorism

“He’s the emir, the leader...”, a suspect identified as Yacine E. told investigators in a deposition leaked to Belgian daily La Derniere Heure.

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