Swiss Muslim probed over interview with Syrian rebel

Head of Islamic organisation’s multimedia department faces criminal investigation over documentaries on Syria conflict.

Islamic center Switzerland
Cherni, right, says the criminal probe against him is "politically motivated" [Reuters]

A Muslim organisation in Switzerland has denounced an “unjustified” criminal probe of one of its executives for spreading “terrorist” propaganda over a documentary he made on fighters involved in Syria’s bloody four-year civil war.

Ferah Ulucay, secretary-general of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, denied allegations that the head of its multimedia department, Naim Cherni, produced propaganda for “terrorists”.

One of Cherni’s films included a one-on-one interview with Abdallah al-Muhaysini, a prominent member of the Jaysh al-Fatah group based in the Syrian province of Idlib – one of the main rebel groups operating in the war-torn country. 


“First of all, the government believes that Jaysh al-Fatah are a part of al-Qaeda, but this is not true,” Ulucay told Al Jazeera after the criminal investigation was announced.

“The whole interview is about why the group is against Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]… There was nothing about al-Qaeda.”

Among the statements al-Muhaysini made against ISIL in the interview published last month was: “Those who praise and laud this unjust, agressive state [ISIL] are stakeholders of the bloodshed.”

Ulucay explained the film was part of a campaign aimed at deterring Muslims in Europe from supporting ISIL and countering the group’s widespread propaganda efforts.

“We have to spread awareness and warn them against joining the group,” she said.

“We publish videos translated into French, German, and Arabic on our YouTube channel,” Ulucay added, noting the organisation is trying to fill a major void of information in Europe about the Syrian conflict.

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The Swiss news agency SDA reported that Cherni told a news conference on Monday the film was “an important contribution in the fight against [ISIL]”.

He also described the criminal investigation against him as “rather weak and politically motivated”.

The office of the attorney general said the probe against Cherni, a German citizen, was launched over suspicions that he was spreading propaganda for a “terrorist organisation”.

It noted a major cause of concern was the fact that al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, is part of the Jaysh al-Fatah coalition.

“In particular, the accused party is accused of having interviewed a senior member of the jihad umbrella organisation Jaysh al-Fatah [Army of Conquest], of which the Syrian al-Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra [Support Front] is also a member,” a statement from the attorney general said.

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Source: Al Jazeera