Syrian hostage takers release Swiss aid worker

A Swiss-Italian aid worker landed in Rome on Tuesday morning after being held hostage in Syria for more than a year, the Italian foreign ministry said.

Syrian hostage takers release Swiss aid worker
Italian PM Matteo Renzi: tweeted news of the release. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Federico Motka arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport this morning where he was greeted by Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, the government said in a statement.

The Italian’s arrival was anticipated by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who in a tweet on Monday said: “I have just told Giovanna Motka that her son Federico, kidnapped more than a year ago, is returning and will be in Italy tomorrow.”

Motka was abducted from the Atmeh refugee camp, on the Syrian-Turkish border, on March 12th 2013.

The Italian ministry did not give details of the group responsible for his kidnapping or how he came to be freed, stating only that Motka’s freedom came thanks to the work of the government’s crisis unit and security services. 

Kidnappings are often kept under wraps while negotiations are underway, if a hostage’s safety is deemed to be put at risk by news reports.

In September an Italian journalist returned home five months after being taken captive by rebels close to the Syrian border with Lebanon.

Domenico Quirico, a veteran reporter for La Stampa newspaper, said that he and a fellow hostage were "treated like animals" by their captors.

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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.