GENEVA (AP) — Two Iraq-born men who were involved with a Norway-based Islamist cleric's group were convicted Friday in Switzerland of membership in a criminal organization and forgery.
The Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland said in a ruling that Karwan Mohammad Abdulkarim, 35, was handed a prison sentence of three years and three months and his younger brother, Mustafa Mohammad Abdulkarim, 28, was given a two-year suspended sentence.
According to Swiss prosecutors, the brothers, both Kurdish refugees living in Basel were part of a group set up by the cleric Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, known as Mullah Krekar, that used websites to publish videos from al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri and predecessor Osama bin Laden.
The group also used various websites to attract Islamists and, after their commitment to the jihadist cause had been vetted, grant them access to secret online chat rooms where terrorists and their sympathizers could communicate, Swiss prosecutors said.
The Bellinzona-based Swiss federal court ruled after a trial this week that the brothers' involvement with the group constituted being part of a criminal organization, and that they forged false papers to help them gain asylum in Switzerland. The verdicts can still be appealed.
Krekar received a one-year prison sentence in August 2012 for making death threats against Norwegian politicians, influencing witnesses and inciting terror. The sentence came in addition to a five-year term he got in March 2012 for making death threats against Norwegian officials.
But in December 2012 a Norwegian appeals court acquitted him of inciting terror and reduced his sentence to two years and 10 months. It upheld the conviction linked to death threats that Krekar made against one Norwegian politician and three Kurds.
The cleric, who came to Norway more than 20 years ago as a refugee, is the founder of Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S.