Swiss to send military observers to Syria

Switzerland said on Wednesday it will send unarmed military observers to join an advance team of the Syrian observer mission following a request by the United Nations.

Bern will send up to six members of its armed forces who are already in service as part of the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Middle East, the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs said.

“Switzerland wants to contribute to the UN’s intervention with the deployment of unarmed military observers,” it said in a statement.

The Federal Council took the decision not only out of humanitarian consideration, “but because Switzerland has an interest from the economic, security and migration policy perspectives that Syria and the whole region can find lasting stability as quickly as possible.”

An eight-strong advance team arrived in Damascus on Sunday to prepare for an observer mission agreed with international envoy Kofi Annan as part of his blueprint for ending 13 months of bloodshed.

To protest the violence in Syria the Swiss ambassador in Damascus was recalled to Bern in August last year and its embassy was closed at the end of February.

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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.