Cyprus Mail
Global terrorism

Two Swiss Muslim leaders convicted of spreading al Qaeda propaganda

The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) in Bern

A Swiss court handed suspended jail terms on Tuesday to two senior officials from a Swiss Islamic group for spreading propaganda supporting al Qaeda, in a retrial which followed their earlier acquittal.

Nicolas Blancho, president of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS), and media spokesman Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi were sentenced by the Federal Criminal Court to 15 months and 18 months in prison respectively, both suspended for three years.

Prosecutors originally charged the two men and one other ICCS official in 2017 over videos posted online two years earlier that included interviews with leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra, at the time al Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

The ICCS did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday’s ruling. It has previously said the footage was intended to shed light on a troubled region, not glorify extremists.

Films of the interview were subsequently used online as propaganda for al Qaeda, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said the filmmakers failed to explicitly distance themselves from al Qaeda activities in Syria in the 2015 videos.

The charges were made under a Swiss law that bans al Qaeda and Islamic State. Blancho and Illi were found not guilty in the earlier trial because the court held that prosecutors had failed to provide sufficient detail about the allegations. The third ICCS official was convicted at the time.

The Federal Court overturned Blancho and Illi’s acquittals in March and ordered a new hearing.

The Office of the Attorney General, which brought the prosecution, said it noted the court’s decision on Tuesday with satisfaction.

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