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Kidnap victim plays down anti-vaccine links after shooting drama

© Keystone / Gaetan Bally

A prominent Swiss health official, who was kidnapped and threatened last month, has downplayed media reports that the perpetrator may have been motivated by anti-vaccine sentiments.

Christoph Berger, head of Switzerland’s Federal Vaccine Commission, issued a statement on Sunday revealing himself as the victim of a kidnapping on March 31. The suspected perpetrator was shot dead by police during an arrest in Wallisellen, near to Zurich, a week later.

Police said they were forced to open fire after the German national pulled out a firearm and shot dead his female companion.

Several press outlets reported alleged links between the suspect and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists. These included a 34-year-old man later arrested in connection with the incident.

A court injunction had prevented reporting of the kidnap victim’s name. But Berger decided to name himself in his statement on Sunday.

Berger said he had been held for about an hour by a man demanding a “substantial” amount of money and had been threatened with violence if he did not pay up.

“The focus was therefore solely on the economic interests of the perpetrator. The perpetrator made no reference to my role as President of the Vaccination Commission,” Berger stated.

“I am aware of the great emotional and social tensions that vaccination issues have received over the past two years,” he added.

Berger said he had been advised by police and prosecutors not to release any other details of his ordeal as it is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

There has been no statement from police on the possible motive for the kidnap.

The incident has also generated media coverage because fatal shootings, including incidents involving the police, are rare in Switzerland.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR