A Norwegian court Monday convicted two men of plotting to blow up a Danish newspaper that had printed cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, in an al Qaeda-linked case which underscored the threats of extremist violence in Scandinavia.
Ringleader Mikael Davud, a Norwegian of Chinese Muslim origin, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the plot, while an Iraqi-Kurd with Norwegian residency got three-and-a-half years.
A third man was acquitted of the main charge but convicted of buying bomb parts.
Cartoons published in 2005 by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper led to unrest across the Muslim world.
Magnus Randstorp, research director at the Swedish National Defence College, said the Norwegian plot was part of a series of foiled attacks against the newspaper and cartoonists in which would-be attackers in Sweden, Denmark and Norway came from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.
The Danes are fending off attacks furiously, and the attacks are coming mostly from neighbouring countries, said Randstorp, adding that Norway's convictions may now act as a deterrent.
Extremist violence has risen in the Nordic region in recent years. A botched bomb attack by a man angry at Sweden's presence in Afghanistan took place in Stockholm in December 2010, killing only the bomber.
On July 22 anti-Islamist fanatic Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb that killed eight at Oslo's main government building and then gunned down 69 at a summer camp to punish those he saw as pro-immigration activists.
AL QAEDA LINK
Prosecutors said Davud learned bomb-making from al Qaeda in Pakistan from 2008 to 2009, plotted with members of the organization to attack the Danish newspaper and stayed in contact with them up until his July 2010 arrest.
The court finds it is proved beyond doubt that Davud intentionally entered a conspiracy with al Qaeda to prepare the execution of a bomb attack, Judge Oddmund Svarteberg said.
Davud, 40, insisted during the trial that the training he received was in Iran, that it had nothing to do with al Qaeda, and that his purpose was to bomb the Chinese embassy in Oslo in protest against China's oppression of its Uigur population.
Some Uigurs in China's westernmost province, most of them Muslim, have fought for autonomy from Beijing.
The district court convictions may be appealed by either side. Prosecutors had recommended an 11-year sentence for Davud. Weapons manuals, bomb-making guides and pro-al Qaeda propaganda were found on his computer in Norway after his arrest.
The judge said the Iraqi Kurd, 38-year-old Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, joined Davud in the plot in 2009 and stored explosive chemicals at his home on the assumption their target would be the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
The third man convicted, a 33-year-old Uzbek with Norwegian residency named David Jakobsen, received a four-month sentence. The judge said he bought hydrogen peroxide for Davud, knowing it was for a bomb, but was not part of the full conspiracy.
(Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Alistair Scrutton and Philippa Fletcher)