A former Swiss sergeant was given a slap on the wrist Friday for joining a militia in Syria that was fighting to protect Christians from the Islamic State group.
Johan Cosar, a 37-year-old Swiss national with roots in the Syriac Christian community in Syria, faced a military tribunal over his conduct.
Cosar was found not guilty of recruiting Swiss citizens into the militia, the SDA news agency reported.
But the tribunal did find him liable for personally serving in a foreign militia from 2013 to 2015 “without the permission of the Federal Council,” which is the executive branch of the Swiss government.
He was given a three-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of 500 Swiss francs (€440).
If Cosar violates the terms of the suspended sentence, he could be ordered to pay a daily fine based on his income, net worth and expenses, as part of complex system introduced in Switzerland in 2007.
Cosar, whose mother is Turkish and father is a dual Turkish-Syrian national, completed his compulsory military service in Switzerland after finishing university.
He told the tribunal that he travelled to Syria shortly after the conflict broke out there in 2011 to assess the impact on the Christian community in the north of the country, SDA reported.
He said that at first his actions in Syria were largely humanitarian, but as he perceived that Christians faced a growing threat from jihadists, he helped set up the Syriac Military Council, a militia group.
He admits to recruiting Syrians to the militia.
“For Christians, it was a way for us to protect ourselves against the advancing ISIS,” he told the court, according to ATS. “We had to defend ourselves or we would die.”