ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court sentenced three Iraqis for terrorism offences on Friday, a verdict that the senior prosecutor said should send a message to jidhadists not to see the country as an easy target.
In Switzerland's first convictions of foreign Islamist militants, the three were jailed for between 42 and 56 months for belonging to or supporting a terrorist organization, at a trial conducted under tight security in the city of Bellinzona. A fourth man was acquitted
The three main defendants, who had denied wrongdoing, were arrested in early 2014 on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks and helping Islamic State militants enter the country. Authorities said they had used code words such as "watermelons" for bombs when communicating via social media.
One of the men was convicted of being in Switzerland illegally. Swiss TV said the man identified as the ringleader had been granted asylum status which had since been revoked.
The verdicts are not final. The defendants, aged between 29 and 35, and the prosecutors all have the right to appeal. The prosecutors had asked for sentences of up to 7-1/2 years.
"The verdict says very clearly that Switzerland will not tolerate abuse of its liberal and open values via terrorist activity," Attorney General Michael Lauber, Switzerland's most senior prosecutor, told reporters.
Lauber's office said in December, when Geneva temporarily raised its security alert level amid a hunt for terrorist suspects, that it was conducting 33 criminal proceedings linked to Islamist militancy.
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)