Belgian court gives top extremists recruiter harsher sentence on appeal

A Belgian special forces police officer and soldiers secure the zone outside a courthouse while Brussels attacks suspects Mohamed Abrini and Osama Krayem appear before a judge, in Brussels, Belgium, April 14, 2016. (Reuters)

A Belgium appeals court on Thursday sentenced top militant recruiter Khalid Zerkani to 15 years in prison after convicting him of enlisting dozens of people, including key suspects in the Brussels and Paris attacks.

Zerkani is "the biggest recruiter of jihadists Belgium has ever known," Federal Prosecutor Bernard Michel said during a court hearing in February.

Zerkani was originally jailed in July 2015 to 12 years behind bars, even before the ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels that killed 162 people.

Zerkani, 42, was arrested by police in 2014 after he defied authorities for years with his off-the-radar recruitment of militant s for Syria in the gritty Molenbeek district in Brussels.

His recruits included suicide bomber Najim Laachraoui and Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abbaoud, court documents showed.

"He's the emir, the leader...” a suspect identified as Yacine E. told investigators in a deposition leaked to Belgian daily La Derniere Heure.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50