An Oslo court on Monday jailed two men for planning to bomb the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, in Norway's first-ever guilty verdict for plotting terrorism.
Norwegian national Mikael Davud, a member of China's Uighur minority considered the mastermind behind the plot against the Jyllands-Posten daily, was sentenced to seven years behind bars.
Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, an Iraqi Kurd residing in Norway, received a three-and-a-half-year prison term.
The two men were found guilty of planning to blow up the offices of the Danish newspaper that in September 2005 published 12 caricatures of the Muslim Prophet.
The judges said the prosecution had proved "beyond any doubt that Davud knowingly and voluntarily plotted with Al-Qaeda to carry out a bomb attack against Jyllands-Posten with a bomb that was so powerful that he understood human life could be lost."
The prosecution, which also accused them of planning to murder Kurt Westergaard, author of the most controversial of the drawings, featuring Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse, had demanded they receive prison sentences of 11 and five years respectively.
The court however said there was not enough evidence to prove the men had planned to kill Westergaard, whose drawing has already earned him numerous death threats and an assassination attempt.
The men's lawyers said they would advise their clients to appeal the ruling.
A third man, David Jakobsen, an Uzbek arrested at the same time as Davud and Bujak in July 2010, was meanwhile acquitted of the most serious charges but was sentenced to four months' jail for helping the two others to procure bomb-making material.
The three Oslo District Court judges insisted in their ruling there was "no doubt that it was Davud who took the initiative in the preparations for a terrorist act and that he was the central character".
"The court also believes that it was he himself who would have carried out the terrorist attack since he has explained that he planned to lay out the explosives himself," they added.
According to Norway's intelligence service PST, Davud, a short, bearded 40-year-old, received training in making and using explosives from Al-Qaeda members and sympathisers in Pakistan's region of Waziristan between November 2008 and July 2010.
Davud's lawyer Carl Rieber-Mohn told AFP that his client "does not deny having entered into contact with members or sympathisers of al-Qaeda while he was working out his plan."
However, the lawyer stressed, "he denies that there were any conditions linked to the help he received and denies any deal with al-Qaeda."
While all three men pleaded not guilty to the charges when the trial opened, Davud, of the oppressed Uighur minority in China, confessed he planned an attack, but said it was directed at Chinese interests in Norway and not at Jyllands-Posten.
He said he had been acting out of purely personal motives and that he had manipulated the two others so they would help him get hold of chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, that he needed to build a bomb.
Jyllands-Posten's publication of the 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked violent and even deadly protests across much of the Muslim world.
On Monday, the Danish paper refused to comment on the verdict in Oslo.
Bujak, 39, meanwhile admitted that he had spoken with Davud about the possibility of punishing Jyllands-Posten for the cartoons, but insisted the comments were vague and did not constitute a terrorist plot.
"Bujak helped Davud with the preparations ... and there is no doubt that he was very much involved," the judges ruled, nonetheless lending credence to his insistence he had had no intention of participating in the attack itself.
As for Jakobsen, who contacted police voluntarily in November 2009 and was the only one of the three to have been released from custody until the verdict, he categorically denied any intention to participate in the plot.