A Geneva citizen, who reportedly left for northern Syria in 2019 as an environmental activist, has been held for over a week by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. His lawyer has condemned his detention as “arbitrary”.This content was published on October 5, 2020 - 10:05
The young man in his twenties was arrested in the Dohuk region of northern Iraq while trying to return to Geneva, the Keystone-SDA news agency said on October 3.
He claimed he had been working on reforestation programmes in the region after arriving from Iraqi Kurdistan, further south. Keystone-SDA said the man had spoken in videos about the environmental campaign in which he had taken part.
His visa had allegedly been renewed last February for a year by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, but he was unable to present his passport, which got lost when he crossed the border.
For this reason, the authorities detained him on September 27 and transported him to the regional capital Erbil, together with two other foreign nationals. His lawyer, Olivier Peter, contests his imprisonment, claiming that the man’s identity has been proven.
Keystone-SDA said the young man has links to left-wing circles in Geneva and in the past has campaigned for the autonomy of Rojava, the area in northern Syria controlled by the Kurds.
His lawyer believes his client may be being held owing to his political activities.
The Swiss foreign ministry meanwhile said it had “knowledge of the arrest of a Swiss citizen in Iraq”.
Its embassy was in contact with the local authorities and was “trying to communicate with this fellow citizen in order to assist him”, the ministry added.
The Geneva man reportedly spoke on Saturday to his family, telling them that he was fine.
“There is no reason to justify him being held,” his lawyer declared. “His detention is therefore arbitrary and should be lifted immediately so that he can be allowed to return to Switzerland as planned.”