A district court in canton Zurich has given a Muslim preacher, accused of promoting violence, an 18-month suspended prison sentence. It also ordered the 25-year-old Ethiopian to be deported and banned from re-entering Switzerland for 15 years.
The preacher was on trial for calling for the burning of Muslims who are not devout enough in their worship.
Police arrested the cleric in October of last year, after receiving reports of the controversial sermon delivered at the An’Nur mosque in Winterthur, in north-eastern Switzerland. The man is also charged with distributing pictures of executions online and of violating labour regulations by working without a permit.
"His religious views represent a danger to the public," the prosecution told the court. But the defendent's lawyer painted a different picture, saying: "He was merely an unsuspecting asylum seeker who had only been in Switzerland for three months. He is no fanatical Muslim."
The An’Nur mosque has long been suspected of radicalizing youth, with media reports saying some worshippers had travelled to Syria to fight in jihad movements. A police raid on the mosque in November 2016 also uncovered four suspected illegal immigrants.
Three months later, ten people were arrested following allegations that they had attacked and imprisoned two other people in the mosque who they believed had spoken to journalists.
The mosque was closed down in June when the building’s owners refused to extend the lease.
The mosque’s governors have repeatedly rejected allegations of radicalization and links to terrorist groups. An Islamic culture organisation criticised the media last year of "inciting hatred against the mosque".
The trial in Winterthur took place against a background of growing concern about Islamic radicalisation in Switzerland. Earlier this year, the federal authorities said they have identified more than 500 internet users with Swiss connections who were using social media to spread jihadist ideas.
The accused suffers from lymph node tuberculosis, but was deemed fit enough to stand trial.