Released IS convict remains in Switzerland despite security ‘risk’

A court drawing of defendants and police officer at the Bellinzona Islamic State trial in March 2016 Keystone

Swiss authorities concede they cannot deport an Iraqi convicted of plotting an Islamic State terror attack until they receive guarantees his human rights will not be violated once returned to Iraq. This is despite him being deemed a security ‘risk’.

This content was published on December 23, 2016 with agencies/sb

The justice ministry announced on Thursday that it had rejected an appeal by a 32-year-old Iraqi against his deportation from Switzerland to Iraq.

He was one of the three Iraqi men imprisoned in March on charges of plotting to make bombs and launch terror attacks in Switzerland in the name of the Islamic State group.

The 32-year-old, who was convicted for ‘support to a criminal organisation – the Islamic State - and for repeated attempts at illegal entry into Switzerland’, was released in September for ‘good behaviour’ whilst in detention, after serving part of his three-and-a-half year prison sentence. The Supreme Court said there was no legal basis for continuing to hold him before deportation to Iraq.

But the ministry justice said in a statement on Thursday that it could not expel him: “In view of Switzerland’s international legal commitments, deportation can only be carried out if the person does not risk torture or other inhumane treatment in the country of destination’.

‘Considerable threat’

This is despite the fact that the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) continues to classify the man as a ‘considerable threat’ to internal and external Swiss security. Fedpol wants him to be deported to Iraq and given an unlimited entry ban to Switzerland.

The 32-year-old, who arrived in Switzerland as a refugee, had appealed against his expulsion, arguing that he feared for his life if he was sent to Iraq where he was sentenced to death, he claimed. He also said he had ties to Switzerland, as his family, brothers and sisters live there and he had a job.

The justice ministry told the Swiss News Agency that they were seeking to clarify the matter and that the man would not be deported before a solution is found that guarantees his integrity.

The department said the man was currently living in canton Aargau in a location known to the police.

It said the man could still file an appeal to the Swiss government against the latest refusal. Once effective, however, the deportation procedure would be in the hands of the Aargau cantonal authorities. It is unclear if he will appeal.

Trial after tip-off

The trial of the three Iraqis marked the first time a guilty verdict had been pronounced in Switzerland related to Islamic State activities. The three men were all sentenced to prison terms, the longest of which was four years and eight months.

The judges ruled that the three Iraqis had been trying to bring information, materials and personnel into Switzerland necessary for carrying out an attack. They were charged by the Swiss Attorney General’s office, which received a tip-off from foreign intelligence of an attack planned on Swiss soil.

All three men, who were Iraqi citizens, had fled the Middle East claiming persecution and had been granted asylum status in Switzerland. No bomb was produced, although the Swiss authorities believed an attack was planned for somewhere in the country.

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