Charlie Hebdo killings spark Swiss rallies

Hundreds of people attended solidarity rallies in Geneva, Lausanne and Bern on Wednesday night over the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine’s editorial offices in Paris that left 12 people dead.

Charlie Hebdo killings spark Swiss rallies

The rallies mirrored ones held in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and other cities across France, as well as in London, Berlin and other European cities, as the French coped with their worst terrorist incident since the Algerian war.

Ten members of the magazine’s staff were killed, including its editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb, and cartoonists well-known in French-speaking Switzerland such as Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous.

French police were seeking three suspects in connection with the killings, including two brothers in their 30s, according to media reports, which have suggested a radical Islamic group such as Al Qaeda may be responsible.

Two gunmen shown in a video are heard to shout “the prophet has been avenged” after the killings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, known for satirizing Islam through cartoons.

Around 500 people gathered in silence at the Place de la Riponne, in the centre of Lausanne, lighting candles and brandishing “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) signs that have sprung up in France and elsewhere as symbols of sympathy and indignation over the assassinations.

(Journalists at AFP’s newsroom in Paris gathered en masse to pose for a group photo holding up “Je suis Charlie” signs.)

Local politicians, including the head of the Vaud cantonal government, Pierre-Yves Maillard, participated along with local journalists at the Lausanne gathering, which began at 6pm.

“I grew up with Charlie Hebdo and the Canard Enchaîné (another French satirical weekly),” cantonal cabinet minister Béatrice Métraux told 24heures newspaper.

“I am profoundly shocked by what has happened.”

Earlier in the day, the Vaud government issued a statement condemning “with force this aggression against the fundamental principles of democracy and liberty”.

In Geneva, more than 500 people gathered for a similar rally at the Uni Mall, one of the University of Geneva’s main buildings.

Local journalists, cartoonists and artists were among those at the event, where many participants held up copies of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a publication that was known for its provocative humour.

Journalists are also planning another solidarity rally on Thursday at a square in the centre of Geneva.

Another rally organized by journalists attracted around 200 people in Bern, where the federal government earlier issued a statement of condolences to the families of victims in the Paris terror attack.

For members


UPDATE: Woman jailed for nine years for knife attack on Swiss shoppers

In a rare case of alleged Islamist "terrorism" in Switzerland, a woman was jailed for nine years on Monday for the brutal knife attack on two shoppers at an upscale department store.

UPDATE: Woman jailed for nine years for knife attack on Swiss shoppers

A Swiss woman accused of slashing two people in the name of the Islamic State group in an upmarket shop
was sentenced on Monday to nine years prison coupled with psychiatric treatment.

The criminal court judges found the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, guilty of two counts of attempted murder, and of violating the Swiss laws against association with Al-Qaeda, IS and related Islamist groups.

The woman, who has not been named, tried to slit the throats of two women shopping at the Manor store in Lugano, in Switzerland’s southern, Italian-speaking Ticino region on November 24, 2020.

The attacker, 28 at the time, was accused of committing a “jihadist knife attack” and had “intended to kill her victims and to commit a terrorist act on behalf of IS” (the Islamic State group), the attorney general’s office said earlier this year.

Random victims

On the day of the attack, the woman had gone to Manor’s kitchen supply division on the fifth floor, picked out a large bread knife and approached a random woman standing nearby.

Grabbing her from behind, the assailant plunged the knife at least 10 centimetres into her throat, missing her main carotid artery “by a few millimetres”, the court heard. 

As she screamed “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and “I will avenge the Prophet Mohammed”, she struck the victim to the ground, and then moved on to a second woman, stabbing the knife towards her face and shouting “I am here for

The second woman suffered defensive wounds to her right hand, but managed with help from others to overpower her attacker and hold her until police arrived.

“The suspect acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness,” prosecutors said, maintaining that she had acted “with the aim of killing (her victims) and thereby spreading terror throughout the population on behalf of the ‘Islamic State’.”

Mental health problems

Police quickly discovered the alleged assailant had been linked to a 2017 jihadism investigation.

After “falling in love” over social media with a jihadist fighter in Syria, she had attempted in 2017 to travel to the war-torn country to meet him, but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, it is alleged.

Upon her return, she was deemed to have mental health problems. She was admitted to a psychiatric clinic and fell off the security police radar until the attack three years later, police said.

The assailant had reportedly once been married to a Muslim asylum seeker and had converted to Islam.

‘Very rare’

Experts said the trial marked a rare event, pointing out that such attacks are almost unheard of in the wealthy Alpine country.

Switzerland has never experienced a large-scale terror attack, though it did suffer two other individual knife attacks in 2020 by people with suspected jihadist ties.

“In Switzerland, it’s been very random and very rare that we have people that conduct terrorist attacks,” Christina Schori Liang, a terrorism expert at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told AFP.

It is even rarer that the alleged jihadist attacker is a woman.

“Isis has never claimed an attack carried out by a woman,” Damien Ferre, founder of the Jihad Analytics group which analyses global and cyber jihad, told AFP.

While there were reports of women carrying out attacks in the battle for Mosul in Iraq in 2004, he stressed that “it was never proven and the group did not communicate about it.”