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“Emir of Winterthur” convicted in Swiss jihadist trial

ZURICH, Sept 11 (Reuters) – A man dubbed the “Emir of Winterthur” was sentenced to 50 months in prison by a Swiss court on Friday after being convicted of supporting Islamic State and recruiting for the jihadist group

Prosecutors had said the Swiss-Italian dual citizen, whose name has not been released publicly, travelled to IS-controlled areas of Syria in 2013, where he joined an IS-aligned combat unit.

Upon returning to Switzerland, the now 34-year-old defendant capitalised on his reputation as a warrior to motivate several people to join IS, prosecutors said, calling him “a Salafist guiding figure in Switzerland” who liaised with several convicted IS recruiters from Europe.

He had pleaded not guilty to charges of supporting and participating in a criminal organization and violating a ban on representations of acts of violence but was convicted after a trial.

Winterthur is the suburb of Zurich where he lived and ran a training gym.

Several media outlets said the Federal Criminal Court also fined a second defendant with Swiss-Macedonian dual citizenship who was charged with attempting to travel to IS territory to join the organisation and with recruiting one individual for IS.

The court did not respond to an email seeking confirmation of the verdicts.

Broadcaster SRF said the main suspect had told the court he had briefly embraced jihadist ideology but had since had a change of heart and regretted the episode. He said he had travelled to Syria to provide humanitarian assistance.

Switzerland has not experienced deadly militant attacks like those that that have hit neighbouring countries such as Germany and France, but has identified hundreds of residents deemed a threat and cases of jihadi travellers who have left Switzerland for war zones.