A leader of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party and his deputy have been found guilty of racial discrimination for an advertising campaign featuring two Swiss attacked by knife-wielding immigrants from Kosovo.
The campaign, with a slogan that read “Kosovars are cutting the Swiss apart!” and the true story of two Swiss attacked with knives, were released in the print media during the run-up to the February 9, 2014 vote and also appeared in 2011 on the party’s website.
On Thursday, a Bern regional court said People’s Party leader Martin Baltisser and his deputy Silvia Bär had created a hostile attitude towards Kosovars through the advertisement. They will both be subject to a conditional fine as a result of the verdict.
In January, Zurich-based lawyers David Gibor and Tomas Poledna filed a complaint to the Swiss Federal Court saying that last year’s vote to re-introduce quotas on European Union immigrants – which passed with 50.3% of the vote – should be voided because the ad was used during the campaign. Swiss law states nationwide votes may not be influenced by false information.
At the time, Baltisser rejected the accusations, saying that "the advertisement did not appear in conjunction with the campaign [about EU quotas]," and that the ad first appeared in August 2011.
He also said that "it comes down to the question of whether one can still raise an issue in this country, just as it happened."
The People’s Party responded to the decision by claiming that the racism charge was misused to suppress unpopular opinions.
“This dubious judgement represents a serious blow to freedom of expression in Switzerland,” a party statement said, adding that it would decide whether to appeal after obtaining the details of the judgement.