International Herald Tribune
TUNIS, Tunisia: A court in Tunisia convicted 14 young Islamic militants Thursday of trying to build a hydrogen bomb and sentenced them to up to 14 years in prison, a lawyer said.

The suspects, who come from the North African country’s southern regions and range in age from 19 to 30, were taken into custody in November 2006. The court handed them prison sentences ranging from five to 14 years on charges of belonging to a terrorist group and trying to build a hydrogen bomb, defense lawyer Samir Ben Amor said.

Prosecutors said the group’s leader confessed to carrying out two experiments with the device in a remote mountain region, but the suspect denied the claim in court, Ben Amor said.

Defense lawyers had asked for the case to be dropped, saying the charges against the men were “unreal,” Ben Amor said. He said the only evidence in the case was a rectangular piece of wood with three electric transformers on it — which he said hardly suggested the suspects were trying to build a hydrogen bomb.

In 2002, a suicide attack on a synagogue on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. Run with an iron fist, this North African country of some 10 million people has waged a tough crackdown on suspected Islamic extremists.

Human rights group says the government uses the threat of terrorism as a pretext to clamp down on dissent, and that courts often ignore allegations of torture and procedural problems.
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IHT via AP, May 08 2008.

Source : International Herald Tribune