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Somalia terror suspects released pending verdict

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Somalia terror suspects released pending verdict
19:43 CET+01:00
The two Swedish men convicted of planning terrorist crimes in Somalia have been released by the appeals court in Gothenburg pending a verdict on their case.

Mohamoud Jama, 23, and 26-year-old Bille Ilias Mohamed had been sentenced by the district court to four years in prison. The appeal court statement came after 45 minutes of deliberations at the end of their trial on Wednesday.

The release of the men does not however necessarily mean that they will be acquitted of the charges, but defence counsel was hopeful.

"Most likely it means that, but it could also mean a shorter prison sentence," said Richard Backenroth.

Backenroth had argued in court for an amendment to the penalty passed down by the district court and also in that case that his client had already served his sentence.

"My client has been detained for nine months," said Backenroth.

In her closing comments, prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnström called for their original sentences to be maintained.

She argued the terror attacks could have also been committed in other countries.

"In this case, I maintain that the act would have caused significant damage

to Somalia or another state or to an organisation," she said.

Qvanström did not know if the decision to release the men would be appealed.

"It's not me who decides, it is the chief prosecutor who decides," she said.

When the presiding judge read out the news that the two men would be released their relatives in attendance exploded with joy.

"Thank God," cried several as the tears flowed.

"I have been in court every day, both in the district court and here," said the mother of one of the defendants. "I'm so happy. I've never doubted his innocence."

One of those who were waiting was Mohamoud Jama's father. Just before his son came out of the police station, he said:

"We knew this. They had no proof. The appeal court did as we wanted."

The father repeated what his son had said earlier in the trial, namely that he had been in Somalia in 2008, but only as a tourist and nothing else.

Several family members had gathered to greet the 23-year-old Gothenburg man when he finally emerged from the old police station on Skånegatan. He was received with restrained joyful scenes by relatives and friends.

Jama was however reluctant to talk to the media. In reply to TT's question on how it felt (to be released), he replied only:

"It feels wonderful."

He then left in the company of his relatives.

A short while later Stockholm area resident Bille llias Mohamed came out.

He was also greeted by a crowd of friends and relatives, and he was neither wiling to talk to the assembled media, saying simply:

"No, I just want to talk to and hug my siblings and friends here."

The pair were sentenced to four years in prison in a much-publicized decision in the district court. The conviction was the first time such a case had been tried in Sweden and the district court's ruling was split with one of the lay judges voting to acquit and one to convict.

The Local reported last week that the defence was planning to argue to the appeals court that Sweden's anti-terror legislation does not even cover the Al-Shabaab militia.

The final verdict is expected within a few weeks.

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