MARSEILLE, France — A French court on Monday handed a five-year jail sentence for attempted extortion to Nacer Bendrer, the alleged accomplice in a 2014 terror attack at a Jewish museum in Belgium.
Frenchman Bendrer, 30, appearing in court in the southern city of Marseille denied the accusation, made by the brother of a local drug dealer, that he and another man — one of them brandishing a Kalashnikov — had demanded weapons and 100,000 euros.
“It’s false, completely false,” said Bendrer, who had been under house arrest at the time of the 2017 extortion attempt.
The presiding judge said that the motive remained uncertain but could be linked to a dispute over a snack bar.
Bendrer has been accused in Belgium of being an accomplice to fellow Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, who will stand trial in Brussels for the killing of four people at a Jewish museum four years ago in a jihadist terror attack.
Their trial is expected to take place later this year or early next year.
On May 24, 2014 a gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire in the entrance hall of the museum in the centre of the Belgian capital, killing two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian museum receptionist.
Six days later Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French port city of Marseille getting off a bus from Brussels.
Nemmouche had returned from Syria where he had been fighting with Islamist extremists.
Nacer Bendrer was formally charged as an accomplice in the attack in February 2015 in Brussels, two months after his arrest near Marseille in possession of various weapons.
These included a Kalashnikov assault rifle like the one used at the Jewish museum.
Nemmouche has been linked to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the November 13, 2015 Paris gun and bombing attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.
Abaaoud died in a police shootout near the French capital days after the massacre.
The Paris attacks were allegedly plotted in Brussels by the same cell that carried out the suicide bombings in the Belgian capital’s airport and a metro train station on March 22, 2016, killing 32 people.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and the Brussels 2016 attacks.