BRUSSELS: Belgium extradited a Tunisian former professional footballer turned convicted Al-Qaeda fighter to the United States on Thursday, the justice minister said.
Nizar Trabelsi, who was arrested just two days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2003 for plotting a suicide truck bombing against a Belgian air base where American troops are stationed.
Washington has long sought his extradition, suspecting him of also being behind a more devastating Al-Qaeda plot than the one he was convicted of in Belgium.
The 43-year-old Trabelsi had long battled to avoid extradition to the United States for fear of "inhumane" treatment.
His last appeal was rejected on September 23 by the Belgian Council of State, the country's highest administrative court.
Belgium has received "assurances from US authorities" that he would be tried by a civil court rather than a military tribunal and would not be sentenced to death if convicted, Justice Minister AnnemieTurtleboom was quoted as saying by the Belga news agency.
His extradition was requested by Washington in November 2008.
"The Americans believe Nizar Trabelsi is an active member of an Al-Qaeda terrorist network, which was developing terror activities beyond what he was already been convicted of in Belgium," said a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor.
As far back as November 2007, a US grand jury claimed Trabelsi was part of a conspiracy to murder American nationals outside the United States, a crime punishable by life imprisonment.
He is also accused by Washington of having participated in a "criminal association for the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction" and for providing financial support to terror groups.
Trabelsi played football in Germany for Fortuna Dusseldorf, but later fell into drugs, and went through Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.