Foiled prison breakers could face up to 9 years in jail

On Wednesday the Public Prosecutor demanded prison sentences up to nine years against the nine men suspected of involvement in a failed attempt to hijack a helicopter and break gang leader Benaouf A. out of the prison in Roermond. Some of the suspects are also facing charges of weapons possession and possession of stolen cars, reports. 

In October last year a group of criminals tried to break A. out of prison by hijacking a helicopter. The Amsterdam police got wind of plans for this prison break during an ongoing investigation. A SWAT team prevented the helicopter hijacking. There was a high-speed chase which ended in three suspects being arrested, and a fourth being shot and killed by a police officer. A total of nine suspects are now standing trial.

Benaouf A. is seen as one of the leaders in the Amsterdam underworld. He is currently serving a 12 year prison sentence for ordering the assassination of another Amsterdam criminal in Antwerp in 2012.

The Prosecutor demanded 9 years in prison against 27-year-old Houssain El M. According to the Prosecutor, he was one of the organizers of the prison break. "The investigation clearly shows his guiding role", the Prosecutor said, according to the newspaper. He was arrested on the day of the foiled prison break when he went to pick up the helicopter in Budel, supposedly for a romantic flight with his girlfriend, using his younger brother's ID.

Younger brother 22-year-old Ismail El M. is facing three years in prison for complicity. According to the Prosecutor, he was involved in the preparations. He paid the deposit for the helicopter from his account and maintained contact with the helicopter center in Lelystad, where the booking was made.

The helicopter was supposed to make a stopover in Weert, where El M. said he would pick up his girlfriend. Instead a BMW was waiting there with Saifeddine M. (20), Rachid El M. (24), Sofyan El H. (24) and Alvaro G.B. (54). 

G.B. was the pilot hired from Colombia to take over the helicopter once it's been hijacked and fly to the prison in Roermond. The Colombian pilot told the court that he can't fly that type of helicopter, and he planned to sabotage the helicopter. He said he cooperated with the other suspects because they threatened himself and his family. The Prosecutor demanded six years in prison against him. Saifeddine M. also hear a demand of six years. 

Abdelghafour L., a 39-year-old man who turned himself in last week, and Rachid El M. also played leading roles in this attempt, according to the Public Prosecutor. L. is known to be a good friend of Benaouf A. and visited him in prison. "He had a coordinating role and frequently consulted with the other suspects", the Prosecutor said. This is based on statements made by G.B. and various tapped conversations, which were played in the courtroom on Wednesday.

One played conversation was recorded while the four suspects waited in the BMW in Weert. Rachid El M. can be heard saying that he had a gun ready for Houssain El M., which he can use to overpower the helicopter pilot once he landed. "Jerk his hands off the steering wheel", Rachid El M. said. "So he can not fly away." The Prosecutor demanded nine years in prison against both Rachid El M. and L. 

Against the driver of the BMW, Sofyan El H., the Public Prosecutor demanded seven years in prison. He was arrested after the BMW escaped the first SWAT team and crashed in Maarheeze. The three other occupants managed to escape and were arrested at a later time.

The intention was that after Benaouf A. had been freed from prison, the helicopter would fly to another location, where L.'s French cousin and 20-year-old Omar A. had cars ready. Both were to be getaway drivers. When the police forced them off the road, they managed to escape in one of the two getaway cars. That Audi was eventually brought to a standstill in Roosteren. There the French man was shot and killed by the police during his flight. Omar A. was arrested a short time later. The Prosecutor demanded seven years in prison against A.

Abdellatif N. is facing eight years in prison for complicity. According to the Public Prosecutor, he was closely involved in the preparations for the prison break and bought items needed to make crow's feet - sharp objects that can blow a car's tires and thus hamper pursuit by the police. N. also bought a rope and a car tire which were to be used to lift Benaouf A. from the prison. 

It is now the suspects' lawyers' turn to make their plea. The court will rule on November 12th.