Norway’s Supreme Court (Høyesterett) has sentenced three men, all Norwegian citizens, to jail terms of up to four-and-a-half years, after finding them guilty of having ties to a terrorist organization and supporting the brutal extremist group ISIL in Syria.
The defendants’ sentences were reported to be a bit milder than those determined earlier by a Norwegian appeals court, but their convictions were upheld in a case that’s been moving through the court system for more than a year.
The high court ruled that 31-year-old Somalian-Norwegian Djibril Abdi Bashir must spend four years and three months in prison. That’s the same sentence first issued against him by a local court in Oslo but three months less than the sentence later levied by the appeals court.
Albanian-Norwegian Valon Avdyli, age 29, was ordered to spend four years and six months in jail, three months less than his appeals court sentence, while the third man, a younger brother of Avdyli, was sentenced to seven months in prison for having supported ISIL and violating Norwegian weapons laws.
The case has been considered ground-breaking in Norway because it’s the first time a Norwegian court has ruled on the relatively new law that prohibits Norwegian citizens from taking part in or supporting a terrorist organization.
The defendants had all argued that they only traveled to Middle East to offer humanitarian assistance in the Syrian civil war, but they were found guilty of having pledged allegiance to ISIL as early as May 2013 and were physically present in Syria until January 2014.
The Oslo court had also determined that both Bashir and Avdyli had planned to return to Syria.
It was initially unclear why the Supreme Court had slightly reduced the prison terms handed down by the appeals court. Marius Dietrichson, defense attorney for Bashir, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) he had not yet been sent the background for the sentences but claimed to be satisfied.
“Our most important point was that both the city court and the appeals court had issued sentences that were too strict, and we have won on that point,” Dietrichson told NRK. He said he thinks the sentences will now set court precedent for other cases brought against defendants charged with supporting terrorist organizations.