A 34-year-old father of two has been sentenced to eight years in prison after he kidnapped his six and seven-year-old sons, took them to Tunisia, and told their mother to pay him 170,000 francs ($182,000) if she wanted to get her children back.
Janine Schoch, 30, said she had told Swiss authorities on several occasions that she was afraid her husband Issam would follow up on threats to kidnap her children, newspaper Blick reports.
“I did everything in my power to prevent the abduction,” she told Blick. “I reported it to child protection authorities, but they thought I was a hysterical woman who wanted to discriminate against a poor foreigner."
But Schoch, who lives in Winterthur, near Zurich, had her worst fears realized on August 22nd 2010, when Issam [not his real name] took the children and flew them to his home country.
Eight days after the kidnapping, Schoch received an e-mail from Issam. He said she would be permitted to move in with him and be with her children again if she agreed to send him 170,000 francs.
“It was as if he wanted to sell me my own children,” she said.
In October 2010, Issam was arrested during a trip to Morocco and extradited to Switzerland.
"I could not continue living in Switzerland,” the 34-year-old Tunisian told the judge. “I was treated like a dirty dog by my wife, her family, and the migration authorities,” he explained, adding he was not serious about the money he requested. “I am a decent person,” Issam added.
On Thursday, he was jailed by a Wintherthur court on charges of kidnapping, attempted extortion and issuing threats.
Although Issam is already in prison, Schoch has not yet been able to recover her two sons, who live with their grandparents in the Tunisian city of Jendouba. They have custody of the children following a verdict from a Tunisian court.
Still Schoch feels confident that she will soon have her sons back with her in Switzerland.
"When the judge announced the verdict, I felt the children very close to me. I realized it was a reality that I have a chance to get them back,” she told Blick.
Schoch met her husband in 2002 in Turkey, where they both worked as children’s entertainers.
The couple married and move to Frauenfeld, where their first son was born in 2004. A year later, their second child came.
“Then it all started,” Schoch recounted. Her husband began to pray, went to the mosque every Friday and removed his gold wedding ring. He insisted on her adhering to Islamic customs, but she refused.
Schoch said she initiated a separation after he started teaching his children to spit at Christian churches and the Swiss cross.
She hasn't seen her children in a year and a half.