10-year sentence sought for Canadian in Mauritania

May 14, 2013, 7:36 AM EDT

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Prosecutors in Mauritania are seeking to lengthen to 10 years the sentence of a Canadian man already imprisoned on alleged links to terror groups, a judicial official said Tuesday.

Aaron Yoon, 24, was convicted last July on charges of having ties to a terrorist group and of posing a danger to national security and sentenced to two years.

The new request stems from Yoon's alleged connections to two other Canadians involved in a terror attack on an Algerian gas plant in January, said a judicial official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Mauritanian prosecutors are now accusing Yoon of having acted in connivance with terrorists before the Jan. 16 attack and four-day siege that ended with the deaths of 37 hostages and 29 terrorists, the official said. Among those found dead at the scene were two of Yoon's former classmates from his London, Ontario high school.

The three had traveled to Morocco together, though Yoon maintains he went to Mauritania for religious study. He was arrested in December 2011, and has maintained his innocence in having anything to do with the January 2013 terror attack.

"I came to Mauritania to study the Quran," he told the court on Monday, appearing briefly in a white traditional Mauritanian robe.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. last month, Yoon said he had been in prison and had lost touch with his former classmates, saying he hadn't even heard of their deaths in Algeria.

"I have been wrongfully accused, I've been beat up and tortured. I'm still sick and I still don't see any medical attention yet," he told the CBC.

The court is due to render its verdict on June 9 as to whether Yoon must serve the longer sentence.