Police chief weighs in on anti-jihadi measures

Della Valle told the NZZ newspaper the idea that radicalisation takes place in mosques or within Muslim organisations was a false “cliché” Keystone

The head of the Federal Office of Police has outlined plans for a proposed travel ban for radicalised jihadis, saying it would be possible to confiscate passports and require them to regularly check in with authorities.

This content was published on November 12, 2015 - 12:35

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper, Nicoletta della Valle said these measures and others were being considered in order to prevent and address jihadi radicalisation within Swiss borders. The Fedpol chief added taking away passports was not enough and that “people who we forbid from leaving the country must also be accompanied, watched and socially integrated” in order to properly address the risks of becoming radicalised. 

However, della Valle also admitted that such accompanying tasks would have to be assumed by the cantons and that resources are currently limited.

She also came out against Switzerland’s seeking access to detailed flight passenger information known as Passenger Name Records. She said it overstepped data protection limits and would yield very small returns amid an enormous amount of data. 

“I’m not sure this data is really needed for an effective fight against terrorism,” she said, adding it was more important to raise awareness among police and border officials of current problems.

Task force report

Her comments follow a report released earlier this month by a federal police office task force, which recommended introducing preventative police measures to stop a radicalised jihadi from leaving Switzerland. The cabinet has asked Fedpol to examine whether, as a last resort, a travel ban could be an effective means of enforcement.

The report did not mention radicalisation in mosques or investigating Muslim organisations. Della Valle said these kinds of assumptions about where radicalisation takes place were “clichés”.

Instead, she said radicalisation takes place online and should be separated from Muslim organisations, which “represent Muslims and not terrorists”. Therefore, the police office strongly relies on parents, teachers and community members to identify possible signs of radicalisation, such as “acting withdrawn, suddenly abstaining from alcohol and beginning to reject the values of our society”, according to della Valle. 

Currently, some 70 cases of jihadi radicalisation are being investigated in Switzerland, with criminal proceedings underway in more than 20 cases. As of October, Swiss intelligence had recorded 40 confirmed cases of jihad-motivated travel (+10 since February). Seven others have left conflict zones and some have returned to Switzerland. In addition, 31 other suspected jihadis are being monitored. 

Latest arrests and prosecutions

On Thursday, the NZZ also reported that an Iraqi citizen living in eastern Switzerland was the latest to be convicted for supporting jihadi activities. He was found guilty of supporting a criminal organisation (Islamic State) and openly promoting violence as well as providing directions for how to create explosive devices. He was sentenced to six months in prison. This was the third conviction against a jihadi in Switzerland.

Also on Thursday, 13 terror suspects were arrested in police raids across Europe after the Italian police issued 17 arrest warrants. Six were arrested in Italy, four in Britain and three in Norway. Switzerland is also affected by this terror cell, according to the Italian police.

"This operation broke up a cell that affects Switzerland and Germany in addition to Italy, Britain, Norway and Finland," said Giovanni Governali, an Italian police commander. 

The Federal Prosecutor's Office confirmed working with the Italian police on the matter. Swiss police carried out investigations in German-speaking Switzerland on Thursday as part of the international action.

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