A Danish court on Monday found four men guilty of “terrorism” over a plot to kill the staff of a newspaper that first published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The three Swedish nationals and one Tunisian living in Sweden had pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges, but a district court found all four “guilty of terrorism”, chief judge Katrine Eriksen said in the unanimous verdict, which was broadcast live.
However Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti, Munir Awad and Omar Abdalla Aboelazm – all Swedish citizens of Tunisian, Lebanese and Moroccan origin, respectively — and Tunisian national Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri were found not guilty of a secondary charge of weapons possession due to a technicality, she said.
Prosecutors had charged that the the four planned to “kill a large number of people” at the Jyllands-Posten’s offices in Copenhagenwhen they were arrested on December 29, 2010.
The daily paper in 2005 published a dozen cartoons of Islam’s founding prophet that triggered violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.
A machine-pistol with a silencer, a revolver, 108 bullets, 200 plastic handcuff strips and $20,000 (16,000 euros) were among the items found in the men’s possession when they were arrested.
Danish police, who had been collaborating with their Swedish counterparts and had been wiretapping the men, said they swooped on them just after hearing them say they were going to the newspaper office.
The four all adamantly denied the terrorism charge, but Dhahri pleaded guilty to arms possession.
Awad, Aboelazm and Dhahri were all arrested in a Copenhagen suburb, while Zalouti, who prosecutors claimed was the mastermind, was arrested near Stockholm the same day.
Prosecutors said during the trial that the target of the suspected plot was likely an award ceremony celebrating the “Sporting Newcomer of the Year” at the Jyllands-Posten building.
In addition to a number of sports celebrities, Danish Crown Prince Frederik was present at the ceremony, but prosecutors said the four did not appear to have known he was there and that he was probably not their target.
The court was set to hand down its sentence later Monday. The four risk up to 16 years behind bars.
Jyllands-Posten has been the target of a string of attempted and plotted attacks, and remains a top target for Islamic extremists, Danish intelligence service PET said at the end of January.