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Judge sparks terror ruling row

Milan (Italy)
Acts of terror

MILAN, Italy (CNN) -- Italy's justice ministry has sent inspectors to Milan to question a judge who dropped international terrorism charges against five North Africans earlier this week.

Prosecutors have accused the suspects of recruiting suicide bombers in Iraq.

Explaining her decision, judge Clementina Forleo wrote that the defendants were "guerrillas," not "terrorists." She said the activity to recruit and finance training camps in Northern Iraq at the time of the U.S. invasion did not "exceed the activity of a guerilla group."

She also wrote that the 1999 U.N. Global Convention on Terrorism stated that paramilitary activities in war zones could not be prosecuted according to international law unless they were designed to create terror among civilians and broke international humanitarian laws.

The prosecutors, led by the top terrorism prosecutor in Milan Armando Spataro, said on Wednesday they would appeal against the ruling.

Italy's foreign ministry called the ruling a "distortion of a reality before the entire world."

Two defendants, Maher Bouyahia and Ali Toumi, were given a three-year sentence for dealing with false documents and assisting illegal immigration.

CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci reported that two other defendants, Drissi Noureddine and Kamel Hamraoui, would be tried again in another court in Brescia.

Investigators linked the fifth suspect, Mohammed Daki, to the Hamburg cell that plotted the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

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