ZURICH (Reuters) - A 25-year-old Swiss man has been charged with supporting Islamic State, the first time Switzerland has brought a suspected “jihadi traveler” before courts, the attorney general’s office said on Friday.
It said he was suspected of being bound for the Middle East to join up with Islamic State before his arrest at Zurich airport last year.
“This represents the first time in Switzerland in which a suspected ‘jihadi traveler’ who was arrested before embarking on a trip to a conflict zone has been brought before the courts,” Attorney General Michael Lauber’s office said in a statement.
The man, from near Zurich, is charged in Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court with violating the nation’s so-called “Islamic State law” that bans the violent group and related organizations, the statement said.
Officials said they found evidence on his electronic devices that he had “downloaded radical jihadist propaganda that glorified violent holy war”, according to documents made public by the court, which also say the man intended “to travel to Syria to die as a martyr”.
The man, whose name has not been released publicly, disputes the contention that he wished to die as part of the conflict.
The suspect’s lawyer, Daniel Weber in Berne, said he is concerned that Lauber’s office was orchestrating a public relations campaign, rather than a prosecution based on the law.
“How can he be guilty of a crime if he never set foot inside of the airplane, let alone landed in the Middle East?” Weber said. “I don’t believe there is evidence in this case sufficient to fulfill the requirements necessary for a conviction.”
The man was arrested at the Zurich airport on April 7, 2015, before he was set to board a flight for Istanbul. He spent about two weeks in custody before being released.
Lauber’s office said there were 46 criminal cases in which it is working with police to investigate what it called “jihad-motivated terrorism”. Most cases center on propaganda alleged to be in support of organizations forbidden by Swiss law.