France jails nine over fundraising for Uzbek militants

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French police guard a defendant at an earlier appearance in the trial in Paris, 3 DecemberImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The network was cracked in a cross-border police operation

A Paris court has jailed nine people for raising funds for an Uzbek militant group with ties to al-Qaeda which is accused of numerous attacks.

Turkish-Dutch national Irfan Demirtas, the ringleader of the operation, was sentenced to eight years while the others received up to three years.

Operating in eastern France, the network sent 300,000 euros (£244,000; $392,000) to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

It was broken up four years ago by French, German and Dutch police.

The nine men were convicted of raising money for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which seeks to overthrow the former Soviet republic's President, Islam Karimov.

A tenth man was acquitted.

Demirtas was also fined 20,000 euros and barred from French territory upon completion of his sentence, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The court heard that he had met former IMU leader Tahir Iouldache - who was killed in 2009 - on several occasions.

At the trial, defence lawyers sought to argue that the funds had been used for humanitarian purposes.