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Islamic Council leader sentenced for jihadist propaganda

Nicolas Blancho and Qaasim Illi outside the Federal Criminal Court
ICCS chairman Nicolas Blancho (middle right) and its spokesman Qaasim Illi (middle left) were acquitted. Keystone

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court has given Naim Cherni, a board member of the Islamic Council of Switzerland (ICCS), a suspended prison sentence of 20 months for illicit propaganda for al-Qaeda and related organisations. 

Two other ICCS board members, chairman Nicolas Blancho and Qaasim Illi, were acquitted. 

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The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, which brought the case, called in mid-May for 24-month suspended sentences for each of the accused. The defence called for them to be acquitted. 

The specific allegation against Cherni was that between the end of September 2015 and mid-October 2015 he made films in Syria with a leading member of the banned terrorist organisation al-Qaeda. 

The films were subsequently used as propaganda for the al-Qaeda member concerned, according to the indictment. Two videos were published on YouTube. 

The ICCSExternal link describes itself as the country’s largest Islamic organisation and says it focuses on representing the local population. However, its 3,000 members make up less than 1% of the estimated 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland.


Cherni had argued that the films were for journalistic purposes. The court dismissed this, which was a central point, an analysis on Swiss public television SRF saidExternal link on Friday evening. But that the other two men were acquitted “overshadowed this success”, particularly because the decision was based on the formalities lacking in the charges. Overall, some questions remained open, Rafael von Matt wrote. “Judging these types of cases remains a difficult balancing act for courts,” he said.

Thomas Knellwolf at the TagesanzeigerExternal link said that flagging up the formality issue showed that the court in Bellinzona was independent. But that the two ICCS board members were acquitted despite the video showed, Knellwolf said, that, “…there is still much to be improved in the Swiss justice fight against terrorism”.

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