updated 10/17/2008 8:54:06 PM ET 2008-10-18T00:54:06

A Moroccan court convicted 47 people and sentenced them to up to 30 years in prison over a suicide bombing last year at a Casablanca internet cafe, a lawyer said Friday.

A criminal court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, gave the longest jail term of 30 years to Abdelkrim Ougard late Thursday, said lawyer Khalil Idrissi, who defended two other suspects on trial. Ougard was accused of forming a criminal gang with the aim of committing terrorist acts, making explosives, theft, forgery and failure to denounce terrorism.

All those convicted were accused of links to a March 2007 suicide bombing at a Casablanca cybercafe. Abdelfettah Raydi, 23, detonated his charge after the cafe's owner caught him surfing an Islamist Web site.

After the 2007 bombing, a police investigation turned up an alleged plot involving dozens of suspects to attack Casablanca's port and police stations and tourist sites around Morocco, a moderate Muslim nation and popular tourist destination.

Youssef Khouidri, who was with Raydi at the time of the cybercafe bombing but dropped his bombs and fled, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He and two of the others convicted were minors at the time of the explosion, the state news agency MAP said.

Twelve others were given six to 15 years, and four people were acquitted, lawyer Idrissi said. Idrissi said most of the sentences were overly harsh and based on flimsy evidence.

Half a dozen terrorism cells have been dismantled recently in Morocco, a strong ally of the United States in its war against terrorism.

In a sweep last year, police shot one suspect dead, while three others blew themselves up to avoid capture. The blasts killed a policeman and wounded 21 other people. Days later, two others blew themselves up near the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca.

This North African country of 33 million has also seen a rise of political and radical Islam in recent years. Suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people, and about 1,000 suspected Islamic militants are behind bars, either awaiting trial or sentenced on terrorism charges.

Another major Moroccan terrorist trial opened Thursday in the same court in Sale, involving a Belgian of Moroccan descent, Abdelkader Belliraj, accused of running a cell of 36 people and ordering the murder of a Muslim moderate leader killed in Brussels in the 1980s. The proceedings were immediately adjourned until Nov. 14.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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