A Swiss man has been arrested at Zurich airport, where he was trying to travel to Istanbul and then, it is thought, Syria or Iraq. This is the first time a suspected jihadist has been prevented from travelling abroad from Switzerland.
The arrest, confirmed by the Swiss foreign ministry, was made on Tuesday as a result of police investigations, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday. The man, who is almost 25 and from the Zurich region, is accused of belonging to a banned group and supporting a criminal organisation.
The Swiss government has outlawed the militant Islamic State (IS) group and similar organisations such as al-Qaeda. The ban includes activities, as well as propaganda and financial support of the jihadist fighters.
The federal prosecutor said the arrest showed the “strict prosecution of anyone in Switzerland who tries to take part in jihad-motivated terrorism”.
Tuesday’s arrest comes at the same time as a Swiss man was arrested, as part of a group, by the Turkish army for wanting to join IS in Syria.
The foreign ministry confirmed that the man had “recently” been held in Turkey and was now back in Switzerland. The ministry did not give further details for reasons of data and privacy protection.
Following pressure from western countries, Turkey has in recent months strengthened checks at its border with Syria. The number of arrests and deportations of foreigners at the Turkish-Syrian border has since increased.
In December 2014, a 30-year-old man from canton Vaud was given a suspended sentence of 600 hours of community service for attempting to join IS in Syria. That was the first time a Swiss had been sentenced for jihadist activity abroad.
The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service has said that between 2001 and September 2014 there were 55 cases of people leaving Switzerland to fight in jihadist conflicts. Of these, 35 had gone since May 2013.
swissinfo.ch and agencies