March 25, 2016 / 2:44 PM / 3 years ago

Macedonian court jails six Islamists, five more on trial

SKOPJE (Reuters) - A Macedonian court sentenced six people, including an imam, to up to seven years in prison on Friday for fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq or recruiting others to join the fight, the court said.

The group was arrested last August in a security sweep in four Macedonian towns when police searched 21 houses, an Internet cafe and a mosque in the capital Skopje.

The six people, including an imam from Skopje, were sentenced to between five-and-a-half and seven years in jail after entering a plea bargain. The trial will continue for another five defendants, the court said in a statement.

The court did not specify which Islamist organization or organizations the six were working with.

Authorities in the former Yugoslav republic estimate that as many as 130 people have fought or are currently fighting alongside Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq and that another 16 Macedonian citizens have been killed there.

Most of the ethnic Albanians who make up one third of the country’s 2 million population are Muslim, but practise a moderate form of Islam.

Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Potter

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