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Sisters who left Switzerland to join Islamic State given suspended prison sentence

A large white building (the Swiss Federal Criminal Court) is shown from a distance.
A view of the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona. Keystone/Alessandro Crinari

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court today sentenced two sisters living in the canton of Vaud to suspended prison terms for having travelled, along with a minor son belonging to one of them, to Syria in 2015 to join the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organisation. 

The Federal Criminal Court found the women guilty of violating the Swiss federal law banning Al-Qaida and IS groups, and sentenced the younger of the sisters, now 51, to an 18 month sentence and the older, age 54, to a 14 month sentence. Both sentences are suspended for three years. 

The younger sister had also taken her minor son to join IS in November 2014, but returned to Switzerland after having failed to cross the border between Turkey and Syria. 

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Separated after arrival 

On February 3, 2015, the sisters set out together with the underage boy and managed to enter Syria. Subsequently, in a town controlled by IS, they were housed in a women’s shelter and separated from the young boy. The boy was taken to a men’s home. 

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When the two sisters expressed their wish to return to Switzerland after three days, they were suspected of espionage. They were allowed to leave the country towards the end of March 2015. Between June 2015 and February 2016, the younger sister sent a total of CHF6,300 ($6,900) to IS from Switzerland. 

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The sentence published today does not mention plans to attack the United Nations (UN and pride parades, an LGBTQ+ festival, in Zurich and Bern, as some media had previously reported. 

The two women are of Tunisian origin; the elder also holds a Swiss passport. The court decided not to deport the younger sister. The women will have to undergo psychiatric treatment during their three-year probationary period. 

Adapted from Italian by DeepL/kc/amva

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