Top Swiss court upholds jail term for Isis supporter

The Federal Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by an Iraqi sentenced to prison for cooperation with the terrorist group Isis.

Top Swiss court upholds jail term for Isis supporter
The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland in Lausanne. Photo: Roland Zumbühl/Picswiss

Wheelchair-bound Osamah M. was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison in March 2016 by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court.

He was the supposed ringleader of a group believed to be trying to plant an Isis cell in Switzerland and carry out attacks in the country.

Read also: Swiss court convicts Islamic group official for 'jihadist film'

The Federal Supreme Court in March 2017 reduced his sentence by a year after an initial appeal.

Osamah M. then appealed again, arguing the criminal court had incorrectly classified his crimes as serious. He also said he had been the victim of a trial by media, adding that the large security presence outside the court during the original trial had given the impression he was guilty.

But in a recent ruling, the Federal Supreme Court rejected these arguments and upheld the reduced sentence of three years and eight months.

The court said the sentence handed to the Iraqi had been proportionate and was in line with federal law.

It also ruled that the Iraqi had failed to demonstrate to what extent intense media coverage had affected the case against him.

The Federal Supreme Court said there had been legitimate public interest in the case and the media had covered arguments put forward by defence lawyers.

The Lausanne-based court noted that intense media coverage of a case did not automatically mean a criminal sentence should be reduced – even if that coverage was at times sensationalist.

The argument that the security presence outside the court had prejudiced his trial was dismissed as irrelevant.

Osamah M. was released from jail in March 2017 after serving out his time. However, he cannot be deported to Iraq as he faces the death sentence there.

The man dubbed the “wheelchair bomber” by Swiss media arrived in Switzerland in 2012 and obtained asylum.

He is thought to have joined a terrorist organization in Iraq as early as 2004 and then posed as a victim of the Syrian civil war when applying for asylum in Switzerland.

Hospitalized in Schaffhausen in the north east of the country before being moved to a centre for paraplegics in the canton of Aargau, Osamah M. is said to have maintained close links with Isis and to have planned terrorist attacks.

Despite operations and rehabilitation, the Iraqi was active on social media platforms and posted videos supporting sharia law and terrorism.

The case, launched after a tip-off from foreign intelligence services, rested on the interpretations of communications between Osamah M. and three other men on Facebook and Skype, said Swiss news agency SDA at the time.

For the prosecution, the words they used – including one deemed a code for a bomb – indicated that they were trying to bring people and materials to Switzerland to prepare an attack.

The defence denied that interpretation with Osamah M. saying he felt he was under constant surveillance by the US.


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.