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Interlaken welcomes home the Unspunnen stone

Shawne Fielding oversees the stone being handed back to its rightful owners Keystone

The town of Interlaken has welcomed home the Unspunnen stone, after a 17-year absence during which it was in the hands of Jura separatists.

At a ceremony on Tuesday, Shawne Fielding, the wife of the Swiss ambassador to Berlin, officially handed the stolen stone back to its rightful owners, the Interlaken Gymnastics Society.

The stone, an ancient symbol of the Bernese Oberland, resurfaced last Sunday during an Expo reception in Saignelègier, when two strangers presented Fielding with it.

Fielding, who had just been nominated ambassador for the upcoming national exhibition, Expo.02, also received a bunch of flowers and a letter demanding the reunification of the canton Jura.

The letter said: “We hereby present you with a few flowers and a big sweet from the Swiss Alps. We hope you will digest it better than we digested the separation of the Jura.”

The Jura separatist group “Béliers” stole the 195-year-old stone, which weighs 83.5 kg, from the tourist museum in Interlaken in June 1984. The group is fighting for the political reunification of the canton Jura, which has been disputed since the tenth century.

After many years of conflict the Républiqe et canton du Jura was founded in January 1979 whereas three districts remained with the canton Bern. Béliers demand those three districts to come under the authority of the canton Jura.

The Unspunnen stone is an important part of various stone throwing competitions in Switzerland, which was first used at the Unspunnen festival in 1805. Since the theft 17 years ago a copy of the ancient stone was used during these competitions.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR