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Freedom fighter Swiss Jura independence ‘terrorist’ dies in Spain

Crowd of people with flags

The announcement, officially accepting Jura as Switzerland's 26th canton, was celebrated in 1978.


Self-styled “terrorist” Marcel Boillat, leader of a 1960s movement to separate the Jura region in Switzerland from canton Bern, has died in Spain at the age of 91.

Boillat formed the Jura Liberation Front (JLF) in 1962, which has been credited with helping to force independence for Switzerland’s youngest canton, in the northwest of the country, in 1979. The JLF also earned a reputation for its uncompromising tactics during the independence struggle in the 1960s and 1970s.

Among other measures, the JLF burned down several farms that had been sold by canton Bern to the Swiss army to be converted into military facilities.

Boillat was arrested in 1964 and sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 1966. But a year later he escaped prison and fled to Spain.

The activist, who has been quoted in the media describing himself as a “retired terrorist”, returned to the Jura for the first time in 1987 after Switzerland had dropped its extradition request to Spain. His last reported visit to the region was in November 2019.

In later life Boillat took to painting and six years ago some of his works were exhibited in Jura, where he remains a revered figure.

The separatist issue has not quite died away in Jura. Last year a court overruled a vote in the town of Moutier, which had decided to move the community from canton Bern to the administration of Jura.

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