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Cabinet proposes tightening anti-terror laws

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga talks to the Swiss press about the proposal to tighten anti-terror laws.
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters on Thursday that it was important to tighten the anti-terror laws to be able to intervene before an incident occurs Keystone

The Swiss government has launched a consultation process aimed at tightening laws to impose tougher penalties against terrorists and those supporting terror groups. 

“The police and justice authorities must be able to act more resolutely against acts likely to increase the risk of a terrorist attack,” the government said in a statement on Thursday, outlining plans to update legislation. 

The government wants to combat the recruitment and training of terrorists as well as so-called jihadi tourism to conflict zones. 

It said the new measures would replace the current temporary ban on terror organizations including Al-Qaida and Islamic State with new targeted legislation making it a criminal offence to recruit people to join a terror group, receive terrorist training, or travel abroad to commit terrorism. 

The new measures – covering both terror groups and individuals – will allow Switzerland to ratify the Council of Europe’s 2005 Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and its 2015 additional protocol. 

Harsher sentences

The government wants to update legislation on criminal organisations to include terror groups. It plans to raise the maximum jail sentence for people who support or participate in terrorism from five years to ten years, and 20 years for leaders of terror groups. 

It proposes to make it easier for investigators to work closely with other states’ intelligence services. Additional measures will be proposed later in the year, the cabinet said. An action plan to prevent radicalization and violent extremism will be adopted before the end of 2017. 

In March the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) said 81 people motivated by extremist ideologies had travelled from Switzerland to conflict areas including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan between September 11, 2001 and February 2017. This number is up from 78 a month earlier. Twenty-two of those have been killed or are believed to be dead, the report said, while 14 have returned to Switzerland.

At the end of 2016, 497 people were being monitored by the FIS for spreading online jihadist propaganda in Switzerland or for using the country as a base for such activities. However, not all these are considered a threat to security, the report noted. Of 70 cases being investigated by federal police, about 60 are the subjects of a criminal proceeding. 

Last year the Federal Police Office also issued 122 people with entry bans, of whom 107 were suspected of committing terror acts or of supporting banned groups.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Swiss Attorney General confirmed that a man arrested in Geneva the previous week was being held on suspicion of supporting terror groups. 

The prosecutor’s office confirmed that the federal and cantonal police officers had taken part in the operation, confirming news reports in Le Temps and Tribune de Genève. 

The man was arrested on suspicion of breaking the Swiss law that bans terror groups Al-Qaida and Islamic State and any activity supporting them.  

However, it refused to give any further details or confirm information published in the press, which alleged that the Tunisian man had been arrested in the Meyrin area of Geneva on June 14.  

The Tribune de Genève claimed the man was suspected of being a key figure in the recruitment of jihadists on Swiss soil and had been sought by Swiss police for at least two years.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR