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Accomplices of 2015 Paris terror attacks convicted in Brussels trial

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By AFP  with Euronews
One man was convicted for hosting Salah Abdeslam before he was arrested in March 2016.
One man was convicted for hosting Salah Abdeslam before he was arrested in March 2016.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File

Four people have been convicted in Belgium for helping the terrorists that carried out the 2015 Paris terror attacks.

The trial in Belgium was taking place separately from a landmark case in France into the country's worst peacetime attack.

Two of the fourteen defendants in Brussels were given prison sentences, while two others receives suspended jail terms. Four suspects were acquitted by the court, while judges suspended the sentencing for three others. Two others were convicted in absentia, and the final defendant was given community service.

Abid Aberkane -- the most noted defendant -- was given a three-year suspended sentence for offering his cousin Sarah Abdeslam a hideout for three days before he was arrested in Brussels in March 2016.

Abdeslam was himself sentenced to life imprisonment by the special court in Paris on Wednesday.

He is the only surviving member of the terrorist cell that killed 130 people in the attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015.

The Brussels criminal court found that Aberkane had "fed, housed and clothed" Abdeslam "with the full knowledge" that he was wanted over the Paris attacks.

But he was not found guilty of spreading propaganda of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

"Not denouncing [IS] membership or maintaining contacts with members ... is not in itself punishable", judges said.

Most of the defendants in Brussels had been charged with "participation in the activities of a terrorist group".

But in many cases, the court said it was not clear that defendants were aware of the IS' terrorist activity when they hosted members or drove them to the airport.

The suspects were mostly Brussels residents who were close to Abdeslam or Mohamed Abrini, sentenced in Paris to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years before right to parole on Wednesday. 

Other defendants had links to the terrorists who had carried out attacks in the Belgian capital on 22 March 2016, killing 32 people.

Ibrahim Abrini was found guilty of helping destroy his brother's computer and clothes while "aware of his involvement in extremely serious acts". 

The Brussels court handed him a suspended sentence as he had no previous convictions and had already "suffered" the bad reputation of his family's name.

Lawyers for the defendants have praised the court for issuing "a very fair [and] very correct" ruling.