A French court sentenced three men for conspiracy Thursday after finding them guilty of helping Richard C. Reid, the British citizen who attempted to blow up a U.S. airliner over the Atlantic with explosives hidden in his shoes.
The court found that the men assisted Reid in Paris before his attempt to destroy an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001.
The presiding judge, Jacqueline Rebeyrotte, sentenced Ghulam Rama, a Pakistani, to five years in prison and expulsion from France after he serves his term. Rama, 67, has spent three years in jail awaiting trial. It was not immediately clear whether he would appeal.
Two Frenchmen, Hakim Mokhfi and Hassan El Cheguer, both 31, were each sentenced to four years in prison, with one year suspended. The court ordered them released because they have been in preventive detention since June 2002.
All three men had pleaded not guilty.
According to French intelligence, Rama organized terrorist attacks during trips to Britain, New York, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia between 2001 and 2002.
A probe of Reid's activities in France revealed that he had used an Internet cafe in Paris to contact Pakistan, a trail that led investigators to Rama, president of Straight Path, a Muslim charity.
Rama later told police that he had seen Mokhfi and Cheguer with Reid. The Frenchmen denied ever meeting him.
On the first day of trial last month, Rebeyrotte read from a French intelligence report that said Rama had met with several people thought to be close to Osama bin Laden and other known Islamic extremists.
Reid was overpowered by other passengers on the American flight as he tried to light the custom-made device. The plane was diverted to Boston, and Reid was arrested there. He pleaded guilty in a federal court to trying to blow up the plane, saying that he was a member of al Qaeda and loyal to bin Laden. He was sentenced to life in prison.