MADRID (AFP) - A court in Spain on Thursday convicted a Saudi man dubbed "Al-Qaeda's librarian" of the charge of membership in a terrorist organisation and sentenced him to eight years in jail.
The National Court, the top criminal court in the country, also ordered that Mudhar Hussein Almalki be put on probation for nine years after his release from jail.
A three-judge panel ruled that the Jordanian-born Saudi national "belonged to the propaganda apparatus of the Ansar al Mujahideen Network since 2006" which is "without a doubt" an "Al-Qaeda satellite group".
Almalki ran online forums linked to this group dedicated to "recruiting terrorists" and glorified Mohamed Merah, a self-proclaimed jihadist who killed four Jews, including three children, and three soldiers in France in 2012, the court said in its written ruling.
"The defendant's activity, part of the so-called 'jihad through words', consisted of distributing all types of material that exalts jihadist terrorism, terrorist groups with a Salafist jihadist ideology and manuals that directly contribute to terrorist training," it said.
The court said Almalki drew up a list of targets which included former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, who he called "war criminals".
Police detained Almalki, who has lived in Spain since 1980, in March 2012 in the eastern city of Valencia.
He was 51 years old at the time.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said at the time that Almalki "administered one of the world's most important jihadist forums" and was known within the organisation as "Al-Qaeda's librarian".
During his trial last month Almalki denied belonging to Al-Qaeda or following the group's orders and said books and weapons manuals found in his home had nothing to do with the outfit.
"I had those books and manuals because I collected them. I collected everything about the war between the United States and Al-Qaeda," he said.
He acknowledged calling the former leaders "war criminals" but denied having identified them as targets.
"Many people, including artists, protested against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and nothing happened to them, everyone was against it and the killing of innocent people," he told the court.