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Authorities validate end to parole initiative for life sentences

The Swiss are set to vote on an initiative demanding an end to parole for criminals sentenced to life in prison. The federal authorities say more than 194,000 valid signatures were collected by the intitiative's organisers.

That's almost twice as many as the 100,000 signatures necessary to force a nationwide referendum.

Almost a quarter of the signatures (45,315) were collected in canton Valais alone. The other main cantons which contributed to the initiative's success were St Gallen, Zurich and Ticino, which gathered over 73,000 signatures between them.

The government has almost three and a half years to bring the issue to a vote, and must make its own recommendation to the public and parliament by May 2001.

The signatures were collected by members of an organisation called Light of Hope, which is primarily backed by German-speaking conservatives close to the centre-right Christian Democratic Party.

The organisation's members say criminals who have been judged extremely dangerous by psychologists should not be granted early release or let out on leave. The initiative was launched after a number of prisoners, set free on parole, went on to commit murders.

swissinfo with agencies