Iraqi pair jailed for terror plots

(AFP) A Stockholm court has convicted two Iraqis of plotting and financing a massive suicide bombing campaign in their home country and sentenced them to long prison sentences and deportation.

Ali Berzengi, 29, and Ferman Abdulla, 25, were found guilty of “receiving and transferring large sums to the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam with the aim that the money be used for terror crimes,” the court ruled.

The crimes included “among other things taking life and thereby creating fear among the inhabitants of Iraq, as well as seriously destabilizing the basic political and social structures there,” the court added.

The two men were sentenced to six and seven years in prison, respectively.

Once their sentences are served, they will be deported from Sweden and barred from returning, the court said.

Prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnstroem, who had called for both men to receive prison sentences of between eight and 10 years, charged that the money was, among other things, used for a suicide bombing in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on February 1, 2004, in which more than 100 people were killed.

The pair’s defense lawyers said the the money was sent to “people who needed help, for social causes,” and not to pay for bombings.

“The court has found that the evidence is so convincing that the prosecutor has succeeded in backing up her claims,” the court said, explaining why the two men received what in Sweden are considered long prison terms for participating in the planning of attacks.

“Due to the seriousness of the crime, the court has also in the question of deportation decided to follow the prosecutor’s line, despite the fact that one of the defendants is married in Sweden and has children here,” the court stated.

Among the damning evidence were documents found in the defendants’ homes, tapes of their tapped phone conversations, as well as material gathered by foreign intelligence services, according to the court ruling.

Abdulla’s defense lawyer Ola Salomonsson said he had not yet discussed with his client whether or not to appeal the verdict.

“That’s a decision he will have to make after going over the court ruling,” he told AFP.

The two defendants were arrested with two other men in Sweden last April suspected of direct participation in attacks in Iraq.

Due to lack of evidence however prosecutors were forced to drop the charges against the other two men at the end of last summer and to reduce the charges against the two defendants.