Swiss court finds trio guilty in Swiss bomb plot

July 22, 2011 - 10:14 AM
Switzerland Ecoterror Trial

Police guard Switzerland's top criminal court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Three alleged

BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AP) — A trio of activists were found guilty Friday of plotting a bomb attack on a planned IBM nanotech research facility near Zurich.

Switzerland's highest court declared 35-year-old Costantino Alfonso Ragusa, his 29-year-old wife Silvia Ragusa Guerini and their 26-year-old Swiss friend Luca "Billy" Cristos Bernasconi guilty of conspiring to destroy the research center as it neared completion.

The trial drew attention to a loose, growing network of European anarchists, with police linking the three to extremist environmental and animal-rights movements that have claimed responsibility for bombings in the U.S. and Europe since the 1990s.

They were arrested in April 2010, about two miles (3 kilometers) from the IBM facility. Their defense lawyers called it a bogus traffic stop that showed police had improperly already presumed they were guilty, but at trial the prosecution said the police found in their possession an explosive gel and a mixture of fuels that, when combined, would detonate with almost as much power as TNT.

The presiding judge at trial, Walter Wuethrich, said the three were found guilty of importing explosives into Switzerland, then illegally hiding and transporting them and plotting an incendiary attack on the IBM center. He said the trio were not charged with an attempted bombing, because their plot was foiled by police ahead of time.

The Italian couple, Ragusa and Guerini, and Bernasoni, a Swiss citizen living in Italy, were handed prison sentences ranging from 3 years and 4 months to 3 years and 8 months, slightly higher than what the federal prosecution had recommended.

But they each have the right to deduct 464 days from those sentences for time already served since their arrests, contrary to what the prosecution had requested. The court said they would be held under special security conditions, without specifying further.

Wuethrich said the special security is required because all three demonstrate "a serious risk of evasion and flight to Italy."

Defense lawyers declined to comment but federal prosecutor Hansjoerg Stadler said he was pleased with the sentence.

"Very serious crimes are now being punished and, thanks to the good job done by the police, damages were prevented," he said.

Security was extraordinarily tight for their two-day trial this week in Federal Criminal Court, where about 50 supporters of the defendants gathered with signs and loudspeakers outside the courthouse.