Thursday,April 12,2007

A Lebanese policeman secures the site near Beirut's criminal court as a vehicle allegedly carrying six Lebanese accused of plotting to bomb trains in Germany last July arrives to the compound, 11 April 2007. The trial of the six men was swiftly adjourned after warrants were issued for two being tried in absentia.(AFP) BEIRUT (AFP) – The trial of six Lebanese accused of plotting to bomb trains in Germany last July opened in Beirut on Wednesday, but was swiftly adjourned after warrants were issued for two being tried in absentia.

Minutes after the trial opened under tight security, judge Michel Abu Arraj decided to adjourn the hearing until April 18 as the defence argued the Beirut criminal court was not entitled to try the four suspects in Lebanese custody.

Defence attorney Fawaz Zakaria said the four should be tried in northern Lebanon where they live and where they were arrested by Lebanese authorities on September 4.

The four men in the dock are suspected mastermind Jihad Hamad, 22, as well as Khaled al-Hajj Dib, 19, Ayman Hawwa, 22, and Khalil Bubu, 23, judicial sources said.

Security officers removed the handcuffs of the four suspects after they were seated in the dock, an AFP correspondent said.

The four smiled to their parents who were sitting in the courtroom, and were allowed to talk and kiss their relatives after the end of the session.

Three of the suspects wore Western-style clothes, while Bubu who has a long black beard was in a beige traditional robe.

Bubu, who is also facing another trial for links in a bomb attack on a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut last year, is an electrician while the other three are university students, judicial sources told AFP.

The Beirut court also issued arrest warrants for Saddam al-Hajj Dib, who remains at large, and his brother Yusef Mohammed al-Hajj Dib, who is in custody in Germany. Both are being tried in absentia.

The six are being tried for "an attempt to carry out mass killing in two passenger trains in Germany on July 31 by using incendiary materials confiscated by German authorities," a judicial source said.

If found guilty, the four suspects in custody could be jailed for a maximum period of 15 years while those in absentia could receive longer prison terms.

Hamad has confessed under judicial interrogation to having placed a suitcase containing explosives on a train in Germany last July, Lebanese judicial sources said.

"The intention was not to kill people, but to avenge any harm done to Muslims after the publication in Denmark of cartoons that were harmful to the Prophet Mohammed," Hamad was quoted as saying.

German federal police said the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Western and some Arab media had been the "detonator" which pushed the gang to organise a plot to bomb German trains on July 31.

The plan failed when bombs concealed on two regional trains did not explode because of faulty detonators.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said last week that bomb-building instructions had been found on a deleted hard disk of a laptop computer which Hamad had taken with him from Germany to Lebanon.