Milan (Italy), 26 May (IANS/AKI) A court in northern Italy has sentenced a Pakistani and a Tunisian Islamic State sympathiser to six years in prison for terrorist threats against targets including a Nato base and iconic national monuments.
Pakistani citizen Muhammad Waqas and Tunisian national Lassaad Briki will be deported once they have served their sentences, the Milan court ruled late on Wednesday.
Briki’s sister told journalists he was innocent. “He never did anything,” she said. “We did not expect such a severe sentence,” added Briki’s lawyer.
In social media chats and wiretapped phone conversations, Waqas and Briki threatened to attack Italy’s Ghedi air base near the northern city of Brescia, as well as Brescia train station, Italian security forces and a fruit and vegetable company where Briki worked as a cleaner.
The two men were arrested in July last year in Brescia on suspicion of setting up a Twitter account from which they posted messages threatening to attack Milan’s Duomo and the Colosseum in Rome.
The threats were accompanied by photos of the monuments and written in Italian, French and Arabic.
“We are on your streets, we are everywhere,” one post read.
“We are in Rome and our knives are sharpened. It won’t be long.”
“We are identifying the targets and await the X hour.”
The pair also downloaded from internet a jihadist manual ‘How to Survive in the West’ giving guidance on bomb-making, transporting arms and on concealing their Islamist extremist identities.
Among phone intercepts was a conversation in which Waqas and Briki agreed to: “Bring down at least one Church”.
In another wiretap, Briki told Waqas he wanted to “carry out an act” before they left Italy to join the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq.
Briki and Waqas, a labourer, had lived in Italy with their families for years, were legal residents and were apparently well-integrated in the town of Manerbio near Brescia, where they worked.
The prosecutor who spearheaded the investigation had asked for jail terms of six years for Briki and Waqas despite admitting there was no evidence the pair had moved to enact any of their threats.