Danes struggle with the intersection between courts & terrorism

There’s much consternation in Denmark today after a jury found four men guilty under the country’s new anti-terrorism laws, and a reviewing panel of judges promptly overruled the verdict as to three of the men, based on insufficient evidence:

The panel of judges hearing Denmark’s first trial involving suspects charged under new strict anti-terror laws has overturned three of the four guilty verdicts handed down by the jury today.

The jury had found all four suspects in the Glostrup terror case guilty of being involved in the planning of a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe, but the judges overturned the verdict for three of the indicted, citing insufficient evidence.

The guilty verdict for the fourth suspect, 17 year-old Abdul Basit Abu-Lifa, was upheld.

The four men had been in custody since November 2005. Charges were filed against them after police and PET, the Danish domestic intelligence agency, found connections between them and two men found guilty in Sarajevo of planning a terror action in Europe.

Abu-Lifa reputedly had close contact with a Swedish national convicted in the Sarajevo case. The other person convicted was a Turkish-Dane.

Judges are obliged to overturn a jury’s decision when they find there is insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction.

In his final instructions to the jury yesterday, the presiding judge, Bent Østerborg, had indicated that the prosecution’s reliance on character witnesses failed to provide enough evidence to prove the suspects were involved in a planned attack. He informed the jury directly that the evidence against the case’s main suspect, Imad Ali Jaloud, was not sufficient to convict him. The 20-year-old was one of those released today.

It is now up to the state prosecutor’s office to decide if the decision will be appealed.

Knowing nothing about the facts of the case, I have no idea whether I’d agree with the judges or the jury on this one. However, I definitely agree with the politicians on this one (emphasis mine):

Politicians interviewed after the ruling were nearly all in agreement that dissension between the jury and judges in a case of such great importance was unsatisfactory.

‘Regardless of whether they were found guilty or not, it would have been best if everyone had been in agreement,’ said Karen Hækkerup, the Social Democratic judicial spokesperson. ‘This was a landmark case, but now it’s just mud. But as law makers we have to trust our legal system.’

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