‘Terrorist crimes’: 2 Swedish nationals sentenced to life in prison for role in Syrian executions

© Stoyan Nenov
Two Swedish citizens have been sentenced to life in prison for “terrorist crimes” in Syria after being convicted of assisting in executions in the war-torn country two years ago. The two men, who pleaded not guilty, are expected to appeal the decision.

Hassan al-Mandlawi, 32, and Al-Amin Sultan, 30, were sentenced by a Gothenburg District Court on Monday for their roles executions in Syria’s second biggest city, Aleppo, in April of 2013.

The convictions came after police found a USB stick containing videos showing the executions in one of the accused’s homes, Reuters reported.

One of the films, shown in court by the prosecutor, showed masked men standing around three other men who were kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs. Two of the men have their throats slit, and the head of one is cut off and then held up for display.

The victims’ captors – including men identified by the prosecutor as the two Swedes – are seen cheering in the video.

The chief prosecutor in the case, Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström, told the court that the movies proved the two had been present when the murders were committed and that they belonged to a terror organization.

“They didn’t hold the knife, but otherwise they were highly involved,” Qvarnström said during the trial.

Those thoughts were echoed by the court’s chairman, Ralf G Larsson, who told TT news agency after the verdict that “the murder films have obviously been crucial, and the prosecutor has managed to show that it is those two guys who are in the videos.”

Referencing the gruesome videos, Larsson went on to state that “every night when I’ve gone to bed I have seen a head hanging in the air.”

Although the Swedish court did not identify the organization the men had fought for, it said it had been proven that the men sympathized with a regime based on Sharia law that aspired to create a caliphate.

The two men pleaded not guilty, however, stating that they were not among the masked men seen in the footage. The lawyer for al-Mandlawi stated that his client should not have been prosecuted because a gunshot wound to the head had left him wheelchair-bound and unable to communicate.

Both men plan to appeal the court’s decision, according to TT.

“As close to certainty without knowing for sure, we will appeal this ruling. There is nothing else we can do,” Lars Salkola, al-Mandlawi’s representative, said following the verdict.

The two men were arrested in Gothenburg in July. Sultan has been in custody ever since, while Mandlawi had been forbidden to leave the city.

The Monday ruling is the first time Swedish citizens have been convicted of committing “terrorist crimes” in Syria, although 28-year-old Mouhannad Droubi, a Swedish resident, was sentenced to five years in prison in February for a “torture-like” assault in Syria that was filmed and posted online.

According to security police, around 280 Swedes have joined terrorist organizations in Syria or Iraq since 2012. Around 115 of those have since returned to Sweden.