TOP ALGERIAN REBELS GET DEATH SENTENCE IN ABSENTIA
March 17, 2007: an Algerian court in Batna province sentenced to death in absentia two former leaders of an al Qaeda-aligned rebel group, state radio said.
Hassan Hattab is the former leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and Mokhtar Belmokhtar is a senior group member. The GSPC this year renamed itself al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb to boost its links to al Qaeda.
Hattab and Belmokhtar were among 27 Islamist militants sentenced to death for "forming an armed terrorist group and possession of weapons" and carrying out armed attacks. It was not immediately clear whether the 25 others were present in court or, like Hattab and Belmokhtar, on the run. (Sources: Reuters, 18/03/2007)