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Activist on trial in Switzerland’s second ‘climate trial’

Young activists were supported at the trial by former Geneva mayor Remy Pagani (right). Keystone

A 23-year-old climate activist has appeared before a Geneva court accused of vandalising the property of bank Crédit Suisse to protest its investments linked to fossil fuels. The verdict in this second Swiss "climate trial" is expected on Thursday. 

This content was published on February 18, 2020 - 17:56

The young man admitted daubing the façade of Crédit Suisse with hand prints in red paint, as did other members of his Breakfree group during a climate demonstration in October 2018. He said the aim was not to cause damage but draw attention to the harmful effects of Crédit Suisse actions on the environment. He claimed the paint was washable and expressed surprise at the sum of CHF2,250 ($2,293) demanded by Crédit Suisse for cleaning it up.

Pleading for acquittal, the young man's lawyer, Laila Batou, argued that the action was justified by the climate emergency. "It would be obscene to convict young people and let the banks destroy the planet," she told the court.

This comes after a district court in Lausanne last month acquitted twelve climate activists accused of trespassing after they mimed a tennis match on Crédit Suisse premises. The activists wanted Swiss tennis star Roger Federer to drop his sponsorship deal with the bank because of its fossil fuel investments. 

In that landmark decision, which is being appealed by the public prosecutor, the Lausanne court president and sole judge deemed their action "necessary and proportionate" given the climate emergency. In his view, their stunt was "the only effective way to get the bank to respond" and "the only way to get the necessary publicity" from the media and the public.

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