COPENHAGEN - A Danish court on Monday sentenced four men to 12 years behind bars for committing "terrorism" with a plot to kill the staff of a newspaper that first published blasphemous caricatures. The three Swedish nationals and one Tunisian living in Sweden had pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges, but in a unanimous verdict a district court convicted all four. However, Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti, Munir Awad and Omar Abdalla Aboelazm - Swedish citizens of Tunisian, Lebanese and Moroccan origin, respectively - and Tunisian national Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri were found not guilty of a secondary charge of weapons possession due to a technicality, chief judge Katrine Eriksen said.
Prosecutors had charged that the four planned to "kill a large number of people" at the offices of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Copenhagen when they were arrested on December 29, 2010.
Prosecutors had asked that the four, aged 31 to 46, be sentenced to between 14 and 16 years in prison - which would have been a historically severe sentence in this kind of case in Denmark.
Prosecutor Gyrithe Ulrich insisted to Jyllands-Posten on Monday that "this case is different from other cases and should result in a stricter penalty.
"They were close to carrying out (the attack). This was not just initial preparations as we have seen in other cases," she said. "In this case we were very close."
But the court in the Copenhagen suburb of Glostrup opted instead Monday to hand the four 12 years behind bars, on a par with two other sentences handed down to date in cases involving terrorism plots.