Senegal’s criminal court sentenced 13 people to prison for attempting to establish a homegrown cell modelled after Boko Haram in the West Africa country.
One of those jailed by the Dakar court on Thursday was Makhtar Diokhane, described as the ringleader of the group. He was handed a 20-year prison term.
“The court was very heavy-handed in sentencing our client and we are going to appeal,” Diokane’s lawyer Alassane Cisse told Reuters news agency.
Fourteen people, including two of Diokhane’s wives, were acquitted.
About 30 Senegalese were put on trial in April for their suspected involvement in the cell after some spent time in Nigeria with the armed group Boko Haram.
Attacks involving Boko Haram have displaced more than 1.8 million Nigerians in the country’s predominantly agricultural northeast over the last 10 years. An estimated 20,000 people have been killed.
Twenty-nine other suspects, three of them women, were accused of criminal conspiracy related to financing an armed group, money-laundering, and acts of terrorism.
The public prosecutor had requested life sentences for 11 of the accused, and a 30-year prison term for Alioune Ndao – a popular imam from the town of Kaolack in central Senegal – who was accused of acting as a coordinator. He received a suspended one-month sentence.
Most were arrested in 2015 in Senegal. Prosecutors said was their plan was to foment violence in neighbouring countries as well.
Senegal has so far escaped the al-Qaeda-linked insurgency that has destabilised neighbouring Mali along with attacks on other West African nations including Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
But Dakar has stepped up security outside hotels and public buildings.