A global information service about animal rights extremism

ARE Incident Map

Three extremists found guilty in IBM nanotech bomb plot

Switzerland’s highest criminal court has found three environmental activists guilty of conspiring to destroy an unfinished IBM nanotechnology research facility near Zurich.


Italian couple 35-year-old Costantino Alfonso Ragusa and 29-year-old Silvia Ragusa Guerini were sentenced at the Federal Criminal Court in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona on 22 July, along with 26-year-old Swiss national Luca ‘Billy’ Cristos Bernasconi.

The trial revealed a loosely-structured network of European anarchists as the prosecutors successfully linked the three defendants to the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front – two extremist organisations that have been active in Europe and the US since the 1990s.

The findings support the conclusions of a conference in Brussels this year hosted by Europol and Eurojust, the EU bodies that oversee cross-border criminal intelligence and judicial cooporation, at which security experts from EU member states warned of increasing collaboration between different extremist groups.

A mirror image of the Animal Liberation Front in structure, values and tactics, the Earth Liberation Front was founded in the UK in 1992 and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. It is commonly regarded as the ALF’s environmental counterpart, and there are close links between the two movements.

The prosecution also argued that Ragusa and Guerini are known as founder members of the Italian extremist movement ‘Terra Selvaggia’ (Wilderness), which is linked to the ELF. The three were arrested two miles from the IBM site last year, and were found to be in possession of explosive gel and a mixture of fuels. The material, when combined, could have detonated with a force comparable to that of TNT.

Delivering the verdict, Judge Walter Wuethrich said the three had been found guilty of illegally hiding and transporting explosives, and of plotting an incendiary attack on the IBM facility, but had been acquitted of importing explosives into Switzerland. As the plot was foiled by police before any attack could be carried out, they were not charged with attempted bombing.

They were handed prison sentences ranging from three years and four months to three years and eight months, slightly higher than had been recommended by the prosecution. The court said they would be held under special security conditions, all of them having demonstrated “a serious risk of evasion and flight to Italy”.

All three have the right to deduct 464 days from their sentences for time already served since their arrests.

Federal prosecutor Hansjoerg Stadler said of the sentence, “Very serious crimes are now being punished and, thanks to the good job done by the police, damages were prevented.”

Security was on high-alert during the trial as around fifty supporters of the defendants gathered outside the courthouse with signs and loudspeakers.

Read more here 

IMAGE© IBM Research