A Swiss woman was given a nine-year jail term on Monday for slashing two people in the name of the Islamic State group but her sentence was suspended so she can undergo psychiatric treatment.
The court found the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, guilty of attempted murder and of terrorism-linked charges.
She had “no respect for human life”, court president Fiorenza Bergomi said as she read out the verdict.
She had “acted in cold blood, had planned her actions and decided what weapon to use, and where to buy it”, Bergomi continued.
The 29-year-old woman’s mental state was at the heart of the trial at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, in the southern Italian-speaking Ticino region where the attack occurred.
The attack, which did not result in fatalities, took place on November 24, 2020 in the plush Manor department store in Lugano, near Bellinzona.
The woman had suddenly lunged at two random women shopping at the store, attempting to slit their throats.
According to the Office of the Attorney General’s indictment, the accused “acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness”, shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) several times and “I will avenge the Prophet Mohammed”, and declared “I am here for IS”, the Islamic State jihadist group.
One of the two victims suffered a serious neck injury, while the second sustained wounds on one hand and managed, with others, to control the assailant until the police arrived.
During the trial, the court heard that the woman has been in contact with psychologists and psychiatrists since childhood, with two experts testifying that she suffers from a range of psychological disorders.
Her lawyers argue the accused’s psychological disorders mean the attack could not be considered a “terrorist act” because the woman lived in a fantasy world.
When questioned during the trial, the woman showed no remorse, telling the court: “If I could go back, I would do it better.”
On Monday, she was found guilty of “repeated murder attempts” and of violating the Swiss laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related Islamist groups.
She was also found guilty of repeated unlawful prostitution between 2017 and 2020.
The accused was ordered to pay the woman who suffered the most serious injuries, and who was a civil party in the case, 41,000 Swiss francs ($42,000) to cover her legal costs and as compensation for the “moral wrong”.
The court president pointed to studies indicating that terror suspects could suffer from stress and psychiatric problems.
“We must not forget that there are… people with psychiatric problems who do not belong to terrorist organisations, but who are considered lone wolves,” she said.
Monday’s verdict was in line with the prosecution’s request, but her sentence was shorter than the 14-year-term it had asked for.
The prosecutors, who had also suggested her sentence be suspended and that she be committed to a closed treatment facility for as long as she was deemed a threat, said Monday that they “took note” of the verdict, but did not indicate whether they would appeal.
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.