The trial of a prisoner suspected of killing his therapist on their way to a horse-riding session has begun in Geneva. The case generated ongoing debates over prisoner treatment in the canton and the country.
Two years ago, the suspect was serving a 20-year sentence for two rape convictions when his therapist, a 34-year-old woman, accompanied him alone to an arranged horse-riding therapy session. She was later found dead in a forest near Geneva. The suspect is believed to have slit her throat with a knife that he requested they buy to clean horses’ hooves.
The prison where the suspect was being kept, La Pâquerette, is a unit specialising in rehabilitating dangerous criminals. The therapist who was killed had accompanied other inmates to therapy sessions hundreds of times without incident.
The killing led to a political outcry in Geneva and Bern and a formal investigation concluded that the suspect should not have been allowed to leave the prison. Geneva’s cantonal parliament also called for a parliamentary investigatory committee to look into the government’s role in the incident, but that report has been delayed several times, most recently until January 2017.
The director of the Geneva office responsible for crime sentencing was also demoted as a result of the incident, but a panel reversed the demotion at the beginning of this month because they found no sign of wrongdoing on her part.
Since the therapist’s murder, the prison’s security director must personally approve every trip outside the prison by a dangerous inmate.
The La Pâquerette unit of the Geneva prison system no longer exists; it was closed after the therapist’s murder and replaced with a new unit named “Curabilis”.
The trial is taking place under tight security because of the outcry and high emotions that followed the crime. It is expected to last about two weeks.
The suspect is being charged with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and theft. The prosecutor is advocating a sentence of life in prison.
swissinfo.ch and agencies