Appeal court cuts terror sentences

The Svea Court of Appeal has reduced the sentence given to two Iraqi Kurds, despite upholding their convictions for terror-related offences.

A 29 year old imam from Stockholm had his seven year sentence cut to five years, while a 25 year old asylum seeker based in Malmö now faces four years and six months behind bars instead of six years.

After they have served their sentence, both will be deported and banned from returning to Sweden.

The appeal court found them guilty of planning terror attacks and financing terrorism through sending money to the terror organisation Ansar al-Islam. But in contrast to the lower court, the appeal judges were not satisfied that all of the $148,000 the pair sent to Iraq was actually used for terrorism.

The court accepted the prosecutor’s argument that the pair sent $148,000, but said that there was no proof that more than $33,000 actually got through. On that basis, the men’s sentences were reduced. The part of the money which was sent before 1st July 2003 – when new terror laws came into power – was deemed to be “planning destruction of public property”.

The court was not united in its verdict, with two members of the judging panel arguing that the lower court’s decision should be upheld.

Peter Mutvei, who was representing the 29 year old imam, said that he intends to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“There will be an appeal against the verdict in its entirety. That’s completely clear. My client believes the verdict is completely wrong,” he said.

The court also decided on Monday to lift restrictions on the two men. The imam is married with two small children.

“It’s a relief for him that he can now talk on the telephone and meet his family under more normal conditions, without being watched,” said Mutvei.

The younger man’s defence lawyer, Ola Salomonsson, who has argued that his client had sent the money to “people who needed help, for social causes”, meanwhile said there was only a 50-50 chance he would appeal against the verdict.

“We do not know yet what we’re going to do. I’m fairly positive about the fact that they reduced the amount of money in question. That’s a good thing,” he told AFP, acknowledging however that there were some holes in his client’s testimony.

“He says he never sent money for that purpose (financing terrorist crimes), but he has not wanted to, or been able to explain some aspects, and that is a problem,” he said.

Vice chief district prosecutor Agneta Hilding-Qvarnström had demanded a tougher punishment for the men. But soon after the verdict was announced, she was reluctant to comment on whether she would request permission to fight for longer sentences in the Supreme Court.

“It’s hard to say,” she said.

This was the first terror-related case to be heard by the Court of Appeal since the new terror laws came into effect in Sweden in 2003.

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TT/The Local/AFP