London: Two men, who were found guilty of giving 3,000 pounds to a key suspect in the Paris and Brussels terror attacks during a meeting in a Birmingham park, have been jailed by a UK court.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed, from Birmingham, who had pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism last month was sentenced to eight years yesterday.
Co-defendant Zakaria Boufassil, also from Birmingham, was found guilty at Kingston Crown Court of the same charge at the end of a trial last week and was sentenced to three years. They handed over the cash to Mohamed Abrini - who became known as the "man in the hat" after his face was caught on CCTV footage following the deadly attack on Brussels airport in March.
"I am sure that you are an individual who has for some time, and continues to hold extreme Islamist beliefs, and that you are committed to the cause of Islamic State," Justice Jeremy Baker told Ahmed.
He said that Boufassil's motivations had been less clear. "There is no evidence, beyond your participation in the offence, that you hold extreme Islamist beliefs and have an ongoing commitment to the cause of Islamic State," he said. Justice Baker also imposed an additional one year licence or restrictions on both men, which will apply on their eventual release from prison.
"We know that Abrini visited several locations during his visit to the UK, but that his sole purpose of being here was to collect the money and our case - whilst not focused on attack planning - acts as reminder of why our work to prepare for and prevent such incidents in the UK is important," said Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, Counter Terrorism Lead for West Midlands Police.
"We are working hard with partner agencies and community groups around the West Midlands to alert the public to the dangers of radicalisation and explain what help is available to those vulnerable to negative influences," he said.
The money had been withdrawn from the bank account of one Anouar Haddouchi, a Belgian national who had been claiming UK state-funded welfare benefits while living in the West Midlands with his wife.
Haddouchi is believed to have fled to Syria since. The court heard that hours after collecting the money from Boufassil and Ahmed, Abrini visited the Grosvenor Casino in Birmingham where he took a photograph of a gambling machine on his mobile phone.
In March this year, Abrini was captured on CCTV alongside Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, who detonated bombs hidden in suitcases killing 12 people at Brussels airport.
Another 20 people died in an attack on Maalbeek metro station less than two hours later.
Jurors were also told he is also wanted by the French authorities in connection with the attacks in Paris last November.
Boufassil had denied one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism.
Abrini remains in custody in Brussels....