Minister defends tougher surveillance measures

Swiss Defence Minister Guy Parmelin says Switzerland is currently not adequately protected against terrorist threats.

Minister defends tougher surveillance measures
Guy Parmelin put the case for increased surveillance powers. Photo: SVP

He was addressing the media at the launch of the government’s campaign ahead of a nationwide vote on extending the powers of the intelligence services.

The vote will take place on September 25th.

Parmelin said it was at present possible to monitor people considered suspicious, but only where legal proceedings were underway.

Change could not come soon enough, he said, according to the Swiss news agency SDA.

Although the topic was highly sensitive and affected personal liberties, the law would ensure a balance between security and freedom, he said.

The new law would allow for intelligence services to conduct preventative monitoring, including tapping telephones, bugging rooms and hacking computers.

Parmelin said every single case of surveillance would have to be approved by himself and a Federal Administrative Court judge.

The measures would only be permitted in the event of a terrorist threat, spying, arms proliferation or a cyber attack.

The defence minister said he expected the new legal provisions to be used around 10 times per year.

Large-scale surveillance as in other countries would not take place in Switzerland.

Opponents of the new law question whether it would help prevent attacks. They argue that attacks have been committed abroad where intelligence existed about the perpetrators.

Parliament has already approved the reform of the law on the intelligence services. The vote is taking place after leftwing politicians and representatives of civil rights groups formed an alliance to oppose it.


Switzerland arrests suspected Isis sympathisers in numerous raids

Four suspected members or sympathisers of the Islamic State group have been detained in Germany and Switzerland in a cross-border operation, prosecutors from the two countries said Tuesday.

Switzerland arrests suspected Isis sympathisers in numerous raids

In Switzerland, three people were picked up in the cantons of Zurich, Sankt Gallen and Lucerne, national authorities said, adding that seven further searches were also carried out.

The suspects, whose identities were not released, are accused of “participation in or support for the outlawed organisation Islamic State”.

In Germany, a man was detained in the western town of Roemerberg, federal prosecutors said.

Identified only as Aleem N., he is “strongly suspected of preparing a serious violent attack threatening the security of the state and of belonging to a foreign terrorist organisation”.

He is believed to have attempted to travel from Germany via Turkey to Syria in September 2020.

“In Syria, the suspect wanted to join the foreign terrorist organisation Islamic State, attain military training and then take part in combat or terrorist attacks,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

However, Aleem N. was unable to reach Syria for reasons that were not immediately clear and returned to Germany.

“At the latest in April 2021 he joined Isis in Germany and carried out vast propaganda activities for the group,” prosecutors said.

His duties included “mainly translating official texts, videos and audio messages by Isis from Arabic into German and distributing them on various Telegram channels in German-speaking areas”.

“Isis considered such activities to be equivalent to taking part directly in violent jihad,” it added.

The suspect is also believed to have taken part in a telephone conversation with Isis leaders in late 2021 to “verify his reliability” before travelling to “IS zones of operation”.

However, “a further attempt” to reach Syria in January 2022 “failed again”.

Aleem N. was to appear on Tuesday before a federal judge who will decide whether to remand him in custody.

German intelligence services estimate that more than 1,150 people have travelled from Germany to Iraq and Syria since 2011 for Islamist reasons.

More than a third have since returned to Germany, while at least 270 have been killed in Iraq or Syria.

“A low three-digit-number” are currently detained in the two countries, according to the intelligence services’ 2021 report.