Swiss prosecutors on Thursday requested a lengthy prison term for a woman who slashed two shoppers at an upscale store in the name of the Islamic State group.
Lead prosecutor Elisabetta Tizzoni called for the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to be sentenced to 14 years behind bars for “terrorism”.
But she asked that the sentence be suspended and that the attacker be committed to a closed treatment facility for as long as she is deemed a threat.
The 29-year-old woman’s mental state is at the heart of the trial at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, in the Italian-speaking Ticino region where the incident played out.
The woman, who has yet to enter a plea, is accused of brutally attacking randomly selected victims with a knife “with the aim of killing them and thereby spreading terror”.
The attack, which did not result in fatalities, took place on November 24, 2020 in the plush Manor department store in Lugano, southern Switzerland.
According to the Office of the Attorney General’s indictment, the accused “acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness”, and shouted “Allahu akbar (God is greatest)” several times and “I will avenge the Prophet Mohammed”, and declared “I am here for IS (Islamic State)”.
– ‘Terrorist act’ –
Since the trial opened on Monday, the court has heard that the woman has been in contact with psychologists and psychiatrists since childhood.
Psychiatrist Carlo Calanchini told the court that the suspect suffers from psychological disorders.
He estimated that she actually knew very little about jihadism — and much less than anyone who read the newspapers.
But Tizzoni insisted Thursday that “insanity does not depend on man but on cause.”
“An act of insanity or terrorism? The two hypotheses are not mutually exclusive,” she said, maintaining that a person suffering from mental problems “can be capable of committing a terrorist act.”
One of the two victims suffered a serious neck injury. She is attending the trial and is a civil party in the case, claiming 440,000 Swiss francs ($450,000).
The second sustained wounds on one hand and managed, with others, to control the assailant until the police arrived.
The suspect is primarily charged with attempted murder and violation of laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related Islamist groups.
She is also charged with repeated unlawful prostitution between 2017 and 2020.
The trial is being heard by a panel of three judges and conducted in Italian.
– ‘I would do it better’ –
The accused woman showed no remorse when being questioned by the presiding judge on Monday.
“If I could go back, I would do it better… with accomplicas,” she told the court.
She explained that she wanted to act on December 24, before bringing things forward by a month, fearing there would be too much security on Christmas Eve.
Having discovered IS on social media, she said she had planned for “months, years” to “do something” for the jihadist group and show that she was “capable of carrying out a terrorist act”.
The daughter of a Swiss father and a Serbian mother, her adolescence was marked by anorexia and she did not attend secondary school.
Aged 19, she married a man of Afghan origin and converted to Islam. The pair divorced last year.
After falling in love over social media in 2017 with a jihadist in Syria, she attempted to travel to meet him, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland where she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic, police said.
She has been receiving medical treatment in pre-trial custody.
The trial is scheduled to conclude on Thursday, with the verdict expected on September 19. Both the accused and the prosecution will be able to appeal against the decision.