ZURICH (Reuters) - Prosecutors said on Thursday they had charged three senior members of a Swiss Muslim group with making and promoting propaganda films for al Qaeda.
The indictment targeted three committee members of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS), which describes itself as the country’s largest Islamic organisation and says it focuses on representing the local population.
ICCS spokesman Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi, who told Reuters he was one of the three men charged, dismissed the case as a “political show trial,” and said authorities had misunderstood the video at the heart of the case.
The indictment did not name the suspects, but the ICCS said in a statement the other two were its chairman, Nicolas Blancho, and its cultural production head, Naim Cherni.
The Office of the Attorney General said that the Council had made films in Syria in 2015 with a leading al Qaeda member and posted two films on YouTube that were promoted by the three committee members.
The state prosecutor said it alleged “that the accused offered the leading al-Qaeda member in question a prominent multilingual multimedia platform from which to advantageously portray and promote both himself and the ideology of al-Qaeda.”
Qaasim Illi called the indictments “clearly politically motivated” and said the interview had been with a senior Saudi cleric who denied having links to al Qaeda.
“The point of the interview was to counter (Islamic State) propaganda with a credible figure from the moderate Syrian rebel spectrum. The interview itself never concerned al Qaeda,” he added in an email.
The Attorney General’s office said the indictments were part of criminal proceedings first launched against the Council in December 2015, after the posting of the videos. The case was launched as Switzerland was in a heightened state of alert after attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Switzerland has not seen the kind of Islamist attack that have rocked other Western states, but authorities say they still see a significant threat.
The Attorney General’s office said it was involved in around 60 criminal proceedings linked to jihadists, most of them related to “to propaganda in support of terrorist organisations”.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by John Miller and Andrew Heavens