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Swiss to close embassy in Syria

Switzerland on Wednesday said it was closing its embassy in Damascus and urged its nationals to leave Syria "as quickly as possible".

The embassy closure, which follows that by the United States, was announced by Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter and comes against a background of increasing violence in Syria where the regime is seeking to crush a nearly year-long rebellion.

The embassy will be closed “in the coming days,” Burkhalter told Swiss Radio.

“We withdrew our ambassador very quickly” after the start of the repression, “but we had kept our embassy open to assist the 150 to 180 Swiss nationals living over there, most of whom have double nationality,” the minister added.

The United States closed its embassy in Syria and pulled out all its staff on Monday, while many other countries have recalled their ambassadors for “consultations”.

Rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since Syrian forces began cracking down on democracy protests launched 11 months ago.

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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.