Swiss woman accused of ISIS-inspired attack would 'do it better' if given another chance

29 year old charged with attempted murder of two people in a luxury department store

A woman has gone on trial at Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court accused of attempted murder in an attack inspired by ISIS. AFP
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A young Swiss woman accused of attempted murder in a knife attack inspired by ISIS told a court on Monday she would “do it better” given another opportunity.

The 29-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, showed no sign of remorse as she went on trial at Switzerland’s federal court accused of a “terrorist act”.

Two women were injured in the attack at the plush Manor department store in Lugano on November 24, 2020. One suffered a serious neck injury while the second received wounds to her hand and managed, with the help of others, to control the assailant until police arrived.

The accused was flanked by police officers as she appeared in court in Bellinzona in the Italian-speaking Swiss region of Ticino.

"If I could go back, I would do it better ... with accomplices," she told the court.

She said she had planned for "months, years" to "do something for" ISIS to show that she was also "capable of carrying out a terrorist act".

A photograph of the neck injury suffered by one victim was shown to the court. The survivor was among those who attended the opening day of the trial.

"It didn't go as deeply as I thought," the accused said. "It has no effect on me."

Dressed in black, as stipulated by the court rules, the accused wore a long tunic, tights and, at the start of the hearing, a black face mask and a hooded top.

When asked to comply with court rules and lower her hood, she said: “I’m Muslim.”

After several minutes of discussion with her lawyer and the president of the court, the head of the three judges hearing the case, she agreed to abide by the rules.

According to the indictment issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, the accused "acted wilfully and with particular ruthlessness".

It is alleged that she shouted "Allahu Akbar" [God is greatest] several times, as well as saying "I will avenge the Prophet Mohammed" and declaring "I am here for ISIS".

During the opening hearings, the accused woman answered questions posed by the presiding judge.

She appeared comfortable throughout and answered at length.

The daughter of a Swiss father and a Serbian mother, the woman said she suffered epileptic seizures during her early childhood, while her adolescence was marked by anorexia.

She had gained work experience as a sales assistant and a hairdresser.

The woman has been held in custody ahead of the trial. She has been in contact with psychologists and psychiatrists since her childhood, and indicated that she was being seen in prison, where she was undergoing treatment that made her "nervous".

She said she became pregnant at 17 by her future husband, a man of Afghan origin, whom she married aged 19. The pair divorced last year.

"It started well, then things went badly," she said, explaining that her husband did not want her to study or have an abortion.

She was unwilling to take care of the baby, which was adopted by her parents.

The accused is charged with attempted murder and violation of laws against association with Al Qaeda, ISIS and related extremist groups.

She is also charged with repeated unlawful prostitution between 2017 and 2020.

The woman was known to the police before the Manor attack took place.

After falling in love over social media in 2017 with an ISIS fighter in Syria, she attempted to travel to the war-torn country to meet him but was stopped by Turkish authorities at the Syrian border and sent back to Switzerland, it is alleged.

Police said at the time that she was then admitted to a psychiatric clinic.

The court was due to hear from experts on Monday and Tuesday.

The trial, being conducted in Italian, is set to last until Thursday, with the verdict expected on September 19.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 3:42 PM