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Islamic Council leaders face retrial for Jihadist propaganda 

Nicolas Blancho with Naim Cherni,
Islamic council president Nicolas Blancho (left) and its spokesman Qassim Illi now face a retrial. The sentence against Naïm Cherni (right) was confirmed. Keystone

Switzerland’s Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of two Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS) leaders accused of terrorist propaganda.  

Islamic council president Nicolas Blancho and its spokesman Qassim Illi were accused of broadcasting propaganda videos in support of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. But they were acquitted in 2018 by the Federal Criminal Court on a technicality. The author of the films, Naïm Cherni, was given a 20-month suspended prison sentence.   

In its decision released on Friday the Supreme Court confirmed the lower court’s verdict on Cherni, but overturned the acquittals of Blancho and Illi, saying the lower court had erred through “excessive formalism”. It referred them back to the Federal Criminal Court which will now have to reopen the case.  

The men were charged in relation to an interview by Cherni in Syria in 2015 with a leading member of the banned terrorist organisation al-Qaeda. Films of the interview 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.  

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