A recent conference held by the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich has restated the belief that Switzerland is not a top target for international terrorism.
While some participants called for caution concerning the very term “terrorism,” Guido Steinberg from the Berlin Foundation of Science and Politics warned that given the growth of the Islamist terrorist scene in Germany and the close connections between German-speaking countries, Switzerland ought to remain vigilant. In addition, the vice-director of the Swiss intelligence services Jürg S. Bühler spoke about so-called “control crimes,” and the need to be able to keep watch over the concerned segments of society.
Following criticism from Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger concerning the ongoing diplomatic conflict between Switzerland and Libya, Swiss Federal President Doris Leuthard has retorted that Switzerland simply expects solidarity from other members of the Schengen zone, as it is a member itself. Leuthard also defended the Swiss minaret ban as sign that the Swiss people wish for the country’s Christian heritage and local rules to be respected, while at the same time she vehemently denied that Switzerland was hostile to Islam, and emphasized that the ban did not affect religious freedom. Moreover, she highlighted that Switzerland continues to be an open country with one of the largest populations of foreigners in Europe, which in general is well integrated, and its openness continues to be one of the reasons for its continuing positive economic performance.
The Swiss Federal Court acquitted coalition partner the Democratic Union of the Center (UDC), a right-wing political party, from charges of its election campaign poster inciting hatred between communities. In the poster, Swiss Muslim citizens are seen worshipping. The superscript over the photo reads “Use your heads,” urging non-Muslim citizens to vote for the party in the face of the “Muslim threat.” The Muslims, photographed whilst prostrating themselves in prayer, came together in Bern in a show of solidarity when the cartoon crisis erupted in Denmark in 2005. Ali Ihsan Aydin reports.
The Euro 2008 football tournament is in danger of a terrorist attack from Al Qaeda. Swiss police have said that the terrorist group is threatening to target the games, taking place in Switzerland and Austria next month. Security experts have said the countries are in a “terrorist danger zone” and police are monitoring internet chat forums linked to Al Qaeda. Juerg Buehler, of the Swiss Federal Police, said: “The Euro 2008 tournament is a potential target cited by the Islamist terrorist network.” Messages interpreted as threats have been posted on two Islamist websites favoured by Al Qaeda. Mr Buehler said: “We are taking these threats seriously. We are on alert and we are following these jihad forums very closely. “It is through these that Osama bin Laden’s agents awaken dormant cells. The situation is serious even if it is frustrated people hiding behind these sites.” According to the official, one site said: “Let’s transform the two most secure countries in Europe into hell, like the hell in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Other messages said: “The hour has come for fighters of the faith. They must make themselves heard” and “Austria must withdraw from Afghanistan”. Swiss Federal police spokesman Guido Balmer stressed that there was “no concrete evidence” that an attack was being planned but said all threats were taken seriously. He said: “The tournament is a potential aim, as are the Olympics and other big sporting events. They are in terrorist danger zones.