The airport baggage handler found to have an arsenal of weapons and Islamic literature in his car this week is using a refrain familiar to many in legal circles: “I’ve been framed.”
27-year-old Abderazak Besseghir, a French citizen of Algerian descent, claims he’s nothing more than the victim of an elaborate setup, concocted by the family of his late wife.
As WorldNetDaily reported Sunday, police found an automatic pistol, a machine gun, five cakes of plastic explosives and two detonators inside Besseghir’s vehicle, parked in a lot next to the Air France terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The airport, one of Europe’s busiest, employing 55,000 and handling 100,000 passengers per day, is the same one where terrorist Richard Reid of Britain boarded a Miami-bound plane last year with explosives stashed in the sole of his shoe.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., police reportedly have checked some 80,000 access badges at de Gaulle, and have revoked several hundred clearances.
Besseghir appeared in court yesterday on charges of “association of evildoers in relation with a terrorist enterprise,” as well as violating French weapons laws.
Having an exemplary three-year employment record, Besseghir had attracted little attention from authorities. But that was before his arrest when he returned to his explosives-packed Peugeot.
“He maintains he is the victim of a setup and was completely unaware that there were arms and explosives in the back of his car,” his attorney Philippe Dehapiot said. “We are confidently awaiting the results of forensic tests, including those of fingerprints or DNA from the guns and explosives.”
Police say Besseghir has no known ties to radical Islamic groups and no previous record apart from a vandalism incident in 1997.
Investigating anti-terrorist judge Gilbert Thiel charged him yesterday with several counts of plotting a terrorist attack, as well as illegal possession of explosives, guns and false papers.
Since his arrest, Besseghir has remained silent, except to say he’s the target of vengeance-minded relatives who blame him for his wife’s death and who are now looking to take away his child.
The claim is publicly echoed by his 21-year-old sister, Samira, who explains Abderazak’s in-laws are targeting him since his wife died in a July fire at the couple’s home in the northern Paris suburbs.
Besseghir himself was questioned by police in connection with the blaze, but officials later ruled his wife’s death a suicide.
“[It was] impossible that he could have been part of any international terrorist group, due to his Western lifestyle,” Samira told Agence France-Presse.
She says the man who originally tipped off airport police in the parking lot – identified only as “Marcel L.” – was a former member of the French Foreign Legion, a friend of the in-laws and the likely point man in the alleged framing.
The “family feud” theory has been getting plenty of play among French media, but police say they’re not taking it seriously.
The weapons found in the car included a Czech-made Skorpio machine gun and five bars of tolite explosive, typical of the sort used by the Yugoslav army.
Additionally, Besseghir’s trunk reportedly contained a religious tract written in Arabic, a pro-Palestinian document and an agenda with notes on flights to America.
“We believe Besseghir may have accepted to receive a package from overseas,” a French investigator told Le Parisien newspaper, saying the weapons and documents were all stashed in a plastic bag that could have been shipped to France in an airplane-luggage compartment, according to United Press International.
“Besseghir may not have known what there was in the package,” the investigator said. “He behaves as if this affair has nothing to do with him.”
Two weeks ago, France’s interior ministry said it had reason to believe a terrorist attack was in the offing, though there was nothing to link the airport case to recent arrests of radicals allegedly tied to the al-Qaida network.
Earlier in December, police said they unearthed an apparent scheme to attack the Russian Embassy in Paris following the arrest of nine alleged plotters, and the seizure of materials in a suburban apartment, including a suit to protect against chemical and biological hazards.
The interior ministry said three of the arrested men had trained in terrorist camps in Georgia, “where they mixed with Chechen fighters and particularly with senior operational members of al-Qaida, who are specialists in toxic substances,” according to the International Herald Tribune.
The arrests were part of a French investigation into groups alleged to be recruiting Muslims in the Chechen cause against Russia.
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