Verdict due in Belgium's largest trial of alleged militants

Verdict due in Belgium's largest trial of alleged militants
Dimitri Bontinck, the father of one of the accused, talks to the media as he arrives for the verdict in the trial of the group in Antwerp February 11, 2015.

ANTWERP, Belgium - A Belgian court will deliver its verdict on Wednesday in a trial of 46 people charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation that recruited young men to fight with Islamist militants in Syria.

The end of Belgium's largest trial of alleged militants comes as the country is on high alert after authorities uncovered a plot last month to kill police across the country. Two gunmen were shot dead in a series of raids.

Belgium has proved to be a fertile ground for jihadist recruiters, with authorities estimating that some 350 Belgians have left for Syria to fight for Islamic State or similar groups.

Prosecutors are seeking a jail term of up to 15 years for the 32-year-old Fouad Belkacem, who they see as the leader of the group, Sharia4Belgium. Belkacem has said he is the group's spokesman.

Only nine of the 46 people accused were present in the court when the trial started. Others are believed still to be fighting in Syria or to have died in combat.

The main witness in the trial, 20-year-old Jejoen Bontinck, made headlines when his father went to Syria to convince him to return to Belgium. Prosecutors have asked that he be jailed for four years.

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