Italy imam guilty of terror links

Milan, Italy - An Islamic cleric who preaches at a mosque in Milan has been convicted on terror charges by an Italian court.

Abu Imad was found guilty - along with 10 other men - of being part of a group that encouraged jihad and sought to recruit potential suicide bombers.

But the imam was handed one of the more lenient sentences - three years and eight months - after prosecutors said he posed no current security threat.

The others were handed sentences ranging from two to 10 years in prison.

Abu Imad was allowed to remain free pending an appeal against the verdict.

'Not dangerous'

According to prosecutors the group operated from a Milan mosque previously linked to militancy, and was once branded an al-Qaeda base in Europe by the US.

But prosecutors said Abu Imam left the group in 1999.

"Since then he changed his ways, and we don't consider him dangerous any more," prosecutor Armando Spataro told the Associated Press news agency.

The group continued its activities after the 2001 terror attacks in the US, sending recruits to Afghanistan and Iraq, falsifying money and documents and aiding illegal immigration into Italy, Mr Spataro was quoted as saying.

Italy has carried out a number of raids on suspects in the wake of the 2001 attacks on the New York and Washington.

An Egyptian man who worshipped at the same Milan mosque where Abu Imad preached has alleged he was kidnapped by the CIA from an Italian street before being flown to Egypt and tortured.

In 2006 police claimed to have broken up a terror cell in Milan.

And earlier this year Italian police raided what they branded as a "terror school" at a mosque in the central Italian city of Perugia.