Swiss Punish Citizen Who Helped Syrian Christian Community Fight ISIS

In this June 22, 2017 photo, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters move into position for a battle against Islamic State militants in Raqqa,(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Christian fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces praised a suspended sentence and separate acquittal handed down to a former Swiss army officer credited with bringing together the militia to fight ISIS.

Johan Cosar was found guilty in his home country last week of undermining Swiss neutrality and security by joining a foreign army, for which he was fined 500 francs and given a 90-day suspended sentence. Cosar said he would appeal the verdict.

He was also acquitted of recruiting Swiss citizens for a foreign army.

Cosar is Swiss-born and of Syriac heritage, and currently lives in Geneva. He helped found the Syriac Military Council, the Christian unit that fights under the multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian SDF umbrella. Together, the SDF is the fighting force that has defeated ISIS on the ground in Syria, chipping away at the group’s caliphate territory while evacuating residents in occupied areas.

Cosar originally traveled to Syria in 2011, concerned about the well-being of relatives after President Bashar al-Assad’s violent reaction to anti-government Arab Spring protests. Cosar’s father, Said Malki, an opposition politician, has been jailed by Assad for more than five years now, without receiving any court hearing; there have been unconfirmed reports of Malki’s death.

Cosar fought for the Christian militia from 2013 to 2015, and was arrested upon his return to Switzerland.

“I do not regret what I did — fighting a terrorist organization,” Cosar told Swiss public television. “And if it happened in in Switzerland, I would be the first to commit myself to fight it.”

The Syriac Military Council tweeted, “We are happy and proud to announce acquittal of our hero Johan by the Swiss court. This is significantly important for him and for the struggle against ISIS as we always declared that this is a fight for all humanity. Thank you for your support.”

Macer Gifford, the pseudonym of a British currency trader who went to Syria to fight ISIS alongside the Kurdish YPG in 2015 and with the Syriac Military Council, tweeted, “This man’s a hero. He needs a medal not a criminal conviction.”

“Johan was my commander in Raqqa. He is a kind person that went to Syria to protect innocent people,” Gifford added. “His efforts have helped take the Syriac people & place them in the heart of the SDF. There are few people who have had a greater impact on the destruction of Daesh.”