OSLO, Norway – Two men accused of plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad were found guilty Monday of terror charges in Norway, the first convictions under the country's anti-terror laws.
The Oslo district court sentenced alleged ringleader Mikael Davud to seven years in prison and co-defendant Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak to three and a half years.
Judge Oddmund Svarteberg said the court found that Davud "planned the attack together with Al Qaeda."
A third defendant, David Jakobsen, was cleared of terror charges but convicted of helping the others acquire explosives. Jakobsen, who assisted police in the investigation, was sentenced to four months.
Investigators say the plot was linked to the same Al Qaeda planners behind thwarted attacks against the New York subway system and a British shopping mall in 2009.
The case was Norway's most high-profile terror investigation until last July, when a right-wing extremist killed 77 people in a bomb and shooting massacre.
The three men, who were arrested in July 2010, made some admissions but pleaded innocent to terror conspiracy charges and rejected any links to Al Qaeda.
During the trial Davud denied he was taking orders from Al Qaeda, saying he was planning a solo raid against the Chinese Embassy in Oslo. He said he wanted revenge for Beijing's oppression of Uighurs, a Muslim minority in western China.
Davud, a Norwegian citizen, also said his co-defendants helped him acquire bomb-making ingredients but didn't know he was planning an attack.
Prosecutors said the Norwegian cell first wanted to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, whose 12 cartoons of Muhammad sparked furious protests in Muslim countries in 2006, and then changed plans to seek to murder one of the cartoonists instead.
Bujak, an Iraqi Kurd, said the paper and the cartoonist were indeed the targets, but described the plans as "just talk."
Prosecutors had to prove the defendants worked together in a conspiracy, because a single individual plotting an attack is not covered under Norway's anti-terror laws.
During the trial, prosecutors presented testimony obtained in the U.S. in April from three American Al Qaeda recruits turned government witnesses.
Jakobsen, an Uzbek national who changed his name after moving to Norway, provided some of the chemicals for the bomb, but claims he did not know they were meant for explosives.
Jakobsen contacted police and served as an informant, but still faced charges for his involvement before that.
The men had been under surveillance for more than a year when authorities moved to arrest them in July 2010. Norwegian investigators, who worked with their U.S. counterparts, said the defendants were building a bomb in a basement laboratory in Oslo.