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Swiss Muslim Group Denies Ill Intent for Jihadist Film

Islamic Central Council of Switzerland’s president, Nicolas Blancho, left, and multimedia chief Naim Cherni attend a news conference in Bern, Switzerland, Dec. 21, 2015. The Swiss attorney general has opened a criminal investigation of Cherni.

An executive at a Swiss Muslim organization said Monday that a documentary he’d made about jihadists in Syria was intended to shed a harsh light on their activities rather than glorify them, as prosecutors have alleged.

A criminal investigation against Naim Cherni, head of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland's (ICCS) multimedia department, was launched with the country on high alert after the Islamist State attacks in Paris on November 13, which killed 130 people.

Speaking at a news conference in Berne, Cherni said his film was "an important contribution in the fight against Islamic State," the SDA news agency reported.

Cherni described the criminal investigation against him, announced Saturday by federal prosecutors, as "rather weak and politically motivated," SDA said.

ICCS President Nicolas Blancho accused prosecutors of overreacting and playing into the hands of extremists by launching a frontal attack on what he called mainstream Muslims.

The Swiss criminal investigation has accused Cherni of violating a ban on jihadist groups.

Cherni, from Berne but with a German passport, is accused of traveling to Syria in October and interviewing the leader of a jihadist umbrella group as well as the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is affiliated with al-Qaida.

He subsequently released a roughly 40-minute video, in Arabic with German subtitles, documenting their exchange.

Prosecutors allege Cherni presented his journey to embattled regions of Syria for propaganda purposes without having explicitly distanced himself from al-Qaida activities in Syria.

ICCS has approximately 3,500 members, or around 1 percent of the Muslims living in Switzerland, SDA reported.