Swiss deny visa to Syrian president’s cousin

Switzerland's highest court has refused to lift an entry ban on a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was seeking to travel to the country to fight sanctions imposed by Bern.

Hafez Makhlouf, who heads Damascus’ secret services, counts among the regime’s hardliners, and is alleged to have been in charge of the brutal repression against demonstrators.

According to the Swiss court’s ruling published on its website, Makhlouf had been contesting the sanctions imposed on him by Bern, arguing that the embargo was based on inaccurate information.

As part of his bid to contest Bern’s actions, Makhlouf sought to travel to Switzerland to meet his lawyer, but the court turned down his request for a visa.

The court found that the Syrian and his lawyer had “at their disposal modern modes of communication” and the lawyer “can travel to Syria with ease” to meet his client.

Makhlouf figures in sixth position on a list of 54 people whose assets have been frozen by Bern, according to the court.

Makhlouf is “designated as the colonel in charge of the Damascus’ unit in the intelligence command,” it said. He is also “implicated in the repression against demonstrators.”

Some 50 million francs ($53 million) in Syrian funds have been frozen by Switzerland. It is unclear how much of the sum belongs to Makhlouf.

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Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State

A 31-year-old woman from Winterthur who tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) is standing trial under Swiss anti-terror laws.

Swiss woman stands trial for attempting to join Islamic State
The federal criminal court in Bellinzona. Photo: Swiss Confederation/OFCL

The alleged ‘jihadi tourist' appeared before Switzerland's federal criminal court in Bellinzona on Friday, the Swiss news agency SDA reported. 

In December 2015, the woman, accompanied by her four-year-old child, attempted to travel to Syria via Greece and Turkey in order to join IS, the authorities allege. 

Her intended destination was Raqqa, which was at the time an IS stronghold in Syria.

The woman was prevented from continuing her journey by the Greek authorities and was arrested at Zurich airport on her return to Switzerland in January 2016. 

The Swiss attorney general's office filed an indictment against the Swiss national for offences under the federal law that bans terror groups including Isis. 

According to the indictment, the woman radicalized herself through internet propaganda after converting to Islam in 2009.

It says the Swiss national believed it was the duty of all Muslims to support IS.

She said she rejected western values.

This is only the second case concerning a so-called ‘jihadi tourist' to go before Switzerland's federal criminal court. 

The first prosecution of its kind took place in 2016, when a 26-year-old man was found guilty of attempting to travel to join Isis and given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

Islamic State has been banned in Switzerland since 2014.