World Bulletin / News Desk
Nine men were sentenced Tuesday by an Albanian court to prison terms of up to 18 years for financing and recruiting fighters for rebel groups in Syria.
In the first trial of its kind in the Balkans nation, the Albanians were found guilty of "inciting and recruiting for terrorist aims", said Tirana court judge Ljiljana Baku.
As the verdicts were pronounced the defendants shouted "Allahu Akbar! (God is Greatest) Traitors! Our time will come, you will be punished!", according to an AFP journalist.
The men were also convicted on charges of financing terrorism, inciting hatred and terrorist propaganda, the judge said.
Three of the nine defendants were self-proclaimed imams and were given the most severe sentences. Bujar Hysa got 18 years in jail, while Genci Balla and Gert Pashai were handed down a 17-year prison term each.
The remaining defendants got jail terms ranging from seven to 16 years.
The suspects were arrested in March 2014 during a police operation in Tirana and three other towns, with their trial opening a year later.
According to the indictment, they recruited 70 jihadists and helped them travel to Syria to fight alongside "groups considered as terrorists by the United Nations."
Volunteers were recruited notably during prayers at mosques.
The defendants' relatives present in the courtroom strongly protested the "unjust verdict" by throwing objects and overturning chairs.
From 2012 to 2014, between 100 and 120 Albanians joined the ranks of rebels in Syria and Iraq, according to the authorities.
About 15 Albanians have been killed in Syria or Iraq, and around 30 have returned home.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Mayıs 2016, 10:35