ZURICH – The Swiss attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against a director of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland on suspicion of violating a ban on groups including al Qaeda, the attorney general’s office said on Saturday.
The council board member, a German citizen who was not named publicly, is accused of “having presented his journey to embattled regions of Syria in a video for propaganda purposes, without having explicitly distanced himself from al Qaeda activities in Syria,” according to the office of Attorney General Michael Lauber.
The proceedings, opened on Dec. 9, come as Switzerland is in a heightened state of alert following attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people. The Swiss government on Friday announced it had added 86 employees to what it called its “terror fighting” activities within the federal police, intelligence service and border patrol agencies.
“In particular, the party is accused of having interviewed a senior member of the jihad umbrella organisation Jaysh al-Fath (“Army of Conquest”), of which the Syrian al Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra (“Support Front”) is also a member,” Lauber’s office said of the charges against the Islamic Central Council director.
The attorney general’s office, which is working with the Swiss federal police on the case, indicated that the individual had not been arrested.
A spokesman for the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, Abdel Azziz Qaa Similli, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. An employee at the council, located in the Swiss capital of Berne, told Reuters it would provide a statement later on Saturday.
Since the Paris attacks, Switzerland has been on heightened alert for possible activity related to radical Islamist groups. There are 70 different investigations underway, the government has said, with 33 so far resulting in criminal proceedings.
Lauber recently opened a criminal inquiry on the basis of a “terrorist threat in Geneva” against unknown persons suspected of belonging to a criminal organisation and of violating the ban on al Qaeda or Islamic State operating in the country.
Separately, two Syrians were arrested on Dec. 12 near the French border and are being held on suspicion of possible “Islamic State ties.” Swiss police have said that traces of explosives were found in their car.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Andrew Bolton)