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Alleged Uzbek jihad fundraisers face trial in France

Ten men, most of them Turkish, went on trial in Paris on Monday, accused of raising funds for the Al Qaida-linked group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). They are alleged to have raised 300,000 euros for the group, most of it intended to finance training jihadis in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Prosecutors asked for the network’s alleged leader, Turkish-Dutch national Irfan Demirtas, to be sentenced to 10 years in prison, claiming that he met notorious IMU chief Qari Tahir Yuldashev, who was killed by a US drone in 2009, on several occasions.

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The group collected funds in mosques and from individuals to whom they showed videos of training camps in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal agencies, the prosecution said.

Demirtas claimed that the propaganda found at his home belonged to a Pakistani national named Nasrullah and that he only collected for the “families of martyrs”.

Of the 300,000 euros collected between 2003 and 2008, 170,000 euros went to finance armed jihad, prosecutor Thomas Fiquet said in his statement to the court.

The network was broken up by a joint operation between police in France, The Netherlands and Germany in 2007.

The prosecution called for sentences of between one year suspended to six years in jail for the other accused.

The IMU was formed in the late 1990s to topple Uzbek President Islam Karimov and establish and carried out operations from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

It established close ties with Al Qaida and some of its leaders became played a leading role in the Islamist network, becoming enthusiastic fighters for an Islamic caliphate in south and central Asia.

In the 1980s Turkey allowed Islamists from central Asia and China’s Xinjiang region to settle on its territory, while taking care that they carried out no operations there.

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