Climate activist to appeal conviction for vandalising bank

“Crime scene”: a Crédit Suisse building in Geneva, after a 2016 climate demo. Keystone / Magali Girardin

A member of the ‘Breakfree’ climate activist group found guilty of vandalising a Crédit Suisse bank during a 2018 demonstration will appeal his conviction, according to his lawyer.

This content was published on February 21, 2020 - 13:02
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“The verdict is a disaster,” the lawyer told Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA on Friday, saying the appeal would be taken to Geneva’s cantonal court.

The 23-year-old was sentenced for having daubed the façade of Crédit Suisse’s Geneva branch with red handprints, an action he said was done to protest against the bank’s investments in fossil fuels.

Judges at the trial on Thursday agreed neither with this defence, nor with the argument by the young man’s lawyer that the action was justified by the climate emergency. “It would be obscene to convict young people and let the banks destroy the planet,” Laila Batou had said during the trial.

Rather, the president of the court Françoise Saillen Agad said that the red-handed action was not necessary, and that other means of getting the message across – for example, participating in highly mediatised climate marches – should have been enough.

The man was nevertheless handed a lighter sentence than originally demanded: 10 “daily monetary penalties” of CHF30 ($30.50) each, rather than 20 days. If unpaid, each daily penalty corresponds to one day in custody.

He was also ordered to pay Crédit Suisse a clean-up fee of CHF2,250 despite claiming the paint used was washable.

After the verdict, his lawyer said she was disappointed, and that “by sticking too closely to the letter of the law, we sacrifice its spirit”.

The verdict comes after a district court in Lausanne in January acquitted twelve climate activists of trespassing on a Crédit Suisse premises in 2018 to stage a mock tennis match – a reference to Roger Federer’s sponsorship deal with the bank. The canton Vaud prosecutor’s office subsequently announced the verdict would be appealed.

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