BERLIN A German court on Thursday sentenced an Iraqi man to three years in jail for distributing messages by al Qaeda leaders on the Internet.
The court in the northern town of Celle said there was enough evidence that 37-year old chatroom administrator Ibrahim R. had placed several texts by Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri online since 2005.
Judge Wolfgang Siolek said the accused, a father of four, had considered himself a distributor of al Qaeda's messages.
German security experts have highlighted the growing importance of the so-called "virtual jihad", saying militant Islamists have turned to Internet chatrooms in their efforts to recruit young followers.
Siolek said Thursday's sentence was also meant as a warning to others. The court convicted Ibrahim R. for attracting members or supporters of a foreign terrorist organization, but said the Iraqi's own membership of a terrorist group had not been proven.
Defense lawyers had sought an acquittal on the grounds of freedom of speech and religion.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Kerstin Gehmlich; editing by Mark Trevelyan)