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From outdoors to indoors ‘Forest man’ must go to prison

A makeshift tent at Bremgarten forest, as seen a year after the men moved in


A man who has made his home in a forest near Bern must go to prison for ten days after not paying a fine for illegally setting up camp there.

“Chrütli” as he is known will go to prison from Monday 6 February, according to his Facebook postexternal link.  Martin Wyss, to give him his proper name, has been living in Bremgartenwald, a small area of managed forest near the Swiss capital, since 2014, along with several others.

The group, often referred to as “forest hippies” by the Swiss media, live in an outdoor camp. But in August 2016 Chrütli, the first to move into the forest, was fined CHF800 ($807) for breaking forest law by building an “illegal tent camp”, the Bern-based Bund newspaper reported on Fridayexternal link. Added to this were CHF300 in legal costs.

The complaint had been brought by the Canton of Bern Forest Departmentexternal link, following pressure from the Burgergemeinde Bernexternal link (the civic community of Bern) which owns the forest.

Chrütli told the newspaper that he had been told the news by two civilian police officers on Thursday and claimed that he was looking forward to his time in prison and would take two good books with him.

Media presence

At least it will be warm in prison, a forest men Facebook follower has posted. In January a local television station, Telebärn, ran a report on how the men kept warm in winterexternal link while sleeping in the open air (a good army-style sleeping bag, as well as blankets and furs were among the answers).

The forest men also appeared on German-speaking Swiss national televisionexternal link, in April 2016, after it became clear the Bern cantonal authorities were considering prosecution.

At the moment it is not clear if the other men in the group will have to go to prison too. At the moment they are pleased that they are not all going together: someone has to look after the dogs, they have said.

Stefanie Gerber Frösch, in charge of communications at the Burgergemeinde Bern, confirmed to the NZZ newspaper on Fridayexternal link that the camp still existed. What happens next if the men do not leave the camp is up to the canton’s forestry department, she said.

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