Switzerland wants to strip ISIS fighter of passport

The Swiss justice minister on Monday confirmed that the country was looking at revoking the passport of a Swiss citizen who fought for the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

Switzerland wants to strip ISIS fighter of passport
Men suspected of being ISIS fighters in Syria's Deir ez-Zor province on March 6th. Photo: AFP

Speaking in the lower house of the Swiss parliament, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter confirmed that one case was currently in process while several others were being considered.

The minister said that to date there had been no cases of ISIS fighters being stripped of their Swiss passport.

“But you can be certain that we will exhaust all of our powers when it comes to citizenship,” she said.

The minister went on to say that cases involving dual nationals would be given preference.

“We cannot create stateless people,” she was quoted as saying in Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger.

Under international law, it is illegal to deprive someone of citizenship it doing so leaves them stateless.

According to Swiss Federal Intelligence Service figures from November 2018, 93 jihadists had travelled from Switzerland to conflict zones since 2001. Of these, 31 have a Swiss passport and 18 are dual nationals.

Switzerland has had legal measures in place allowing for dual nationals to be stripped of their Swiss passport for a number of years.

Keller-Sutter's comments on Monday come several days after the Swiss government said that while it would not prevent Swiss citizens from returning to Switzerland from the Syrian–Iraqi conflict zone, it would not actively seek their repatriation, except in the cases of minors.

In a statement, the government said it wanted people tried in the countries where they had committed their crimes.

The comments from the Swiss justice minister also come in the wake of controversy over moves by the UK to strip 19-year-old Shamima Begum of her British citizenship. Begum left the UK aged 15 and travelled to Syria to marry an ISIS fighter.

The UK foreign affairs ministry has said Begum, who is currently in a refugee camp in Syria, is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents but Bangladeshi authorities have disputed this.

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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.