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Swiss ex-sergeant convicted for leading Christian militia in Syria

Aspiring Swiss officers pose at the Swiss Army armoured school of Thoune, on March 27, 2018 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images]
Aspiring Swiss officers pose at the Swiss Army armoured school of Thoune, on March 27, 2018 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images]

A former Swiss soldier who commanded a Christian militia fighting Daesh in Syria was found guilty on Friday of violating Swiss neutrality, reported Reuters.

Hanna Johannes Cosar’s case was a rare example of European countries prosecuting citizens for fighting against, rather than with, militant forces in Iraq and Syria.

Cosar was fined 500 Swiss francs ($499), a relatively lenient punishment, after being convicted by a Swiss military tribunal.

Cosar, whose family moved to Switzerland from Syria three generations ago, was accused of joining a private army whose avowed aim was to defend Syriacs, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, against Daesh forces.

On Tuesday, Swiss justice minister stated that Switzerland would prefer to have citizens who fought for Daesh tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges. The remarks by Karin Keller-Sutter echo reluctance by other European countries to take back combatants whose fate has become more pressing as US-backed fighters seek to capture the last enclave of Daesh’s self-styled Caliphate in Syria.

 

Read: Swiss would prefer Daesh fighters tried on site – minister

A State that hates us

“As Christians we are not only fighting against the Daesh, we are fighting against a state that hates us,” Cosar, a former sergeant in the Swiss army, said in a 2014 interview with Israeli paper Haaretz, one of several appearances he made in the media.

After around two years of fighting he returned to Switzerland, where he was arrested in 2015.

Cosar had faced up to three years in prison under a Swiss law that has most frequently been used to prosecute fighters who join France’s Foreign Legion without government authorisation.

On Friday he was convicted of breaching Switzerland’s ban on fighting for another country without first obtaining permission from the government.

In addition to the 500 franc fine, he was also handed a suspended fine of 4,500 francs. He was acquitted of another charge of encouraging others to fight.

His Swiss attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Europe & RussiaMiddle EastNewsSwitzerlandSyria