Investigations into alleged spying on Swiss soil have taken a new turn with the Federal Prosecutor's Office opening criminal proceedings on the basis of a “genuine suspicion” of surveillance by foreign secret services.
“Various clarifications are under way, and will be later examined,” the office told the Swiss News Agency, confirming reports in two Swiss Sunday newspapers.
In particular, article 271 of the penal code, which lists punishable acts by a foreign state, had been broken, according to the office. It would not comment further on other aspects of the proceedings.
A request to open an investigation has been presented to the cabinet.
According to reports in Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung, the probe would focus primarily on spying activities by the United States.
Last month the Swiss government announced it had widened investigations into alleged US spying activities in Switzerland revealed by former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. Special mandates were given to the justice, foreign and finance ministries to seek further clarifications about possible NSA snooping on Swiss soil with a view to “adopting definite measures”.
Back in June Snowden told The Guardian newspaper that he had worked for the CIA in Geneva in 2007 under the guise of a diplomat. It was here, he said, that he first encountered the scale of the snooping operation. He also described how the CIA recruited a Geneva banker by purposely getting him drunk and then helping him after he was arrested whilst driving.
Washington has told Switzerland the US respected Swiss laws.
However, in October the German Der Spiegel magazine claimed, based on a 2010 document provided by Snowden, that the US embassy in Geneva houses a powerful joint NSA-CIA electronic monitoring station.
Defence Minister Ueli Maurer has said Swiss government had never had any contact with the NSA and denied speculation that Switzerland had exchanged data with the agency. The government has condemned any sort of intelligence activities by a foreign service in Switzerland.