Belgrade, Apr 4 (AFP) A Belgrade court sentenced today seven people to up to 11-year jail terms for joining jihadist groups and recruiting fighters for the Syrian war, in the first such trial in Serbia.

The defendants were “found guilty of terrorism charges as well as financing terrorism and recruiting and training fighters” to go to Syria, the special tribunal for organised crime said in a statement.

They were accused of fundraising money in the Balkans region and western Europe to finance, recruit and train a number of Serbian citizens for the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front groups in Syria.

Four defendants denied charges. Another three were tried and sentenced in absentia. According to local media, they are believed to have been killed in Syria.

The men received jail sentences ranging from seven to 11 years.

The defence attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.

Around 1,000 people from the western Balkans are estimated to have left to fight in Syria and Iraq since 2012.

However official figures show departures slowed dramatically in 2016 following a government crackdown on suspected jihadists.(AFP) AMS AMS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.