A 34-year-old man was sentenced for a Facebook comment that suggested that current Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter deserved to be sexually molested on a late-night bus in India.
A court in the Swiss canton of St Gallen issued a criminal sentence against the man in May 2018, but the news was only made public this week. On Monday a spokesperson for the St Gallen public prosecutor’s office confirmed the verdict that was first published in the SonntagsZeitung paper on Sunday.
In December 2017, the accused had posted a comment on Facebook that stated that “This… should be on a bus in India, alone, at night at 3:00...". The post was made soon after Keller-Sutter was elected president of the senate of canton St Gallen, in northeastern Switzerland. The 54-year-old politician filed a complaint and has since gone on to assume the post of Swiss Justice Minister as part of the seven-member Federal Council that governs the country.
The man was convicted of violating Article 259 of the Swiss Criminal Code on “Public incitement to commit a felony or act of violence” and was ordered to pay a fine of CHF600 (around $600).
Rights and duties
Freedom of expression, a similar concept to the American freedom of speech, has been firmly enshrined in Swiss law since the year 2000. Article 16 of the federal constitution guarantees every person the right to form, express, impart, and receive opinions and information.
There are some limits to this freedom though (besides provoking violence): article 261 of the Criminal Code, which forbids racist and anti-religious statements; article 173, which outlaws attacks against “personal honour”; and article 28 of the Civil Code, which guarantees “personality rights”.
Under these regulations, cases with specific racist or anti-religious elements, including Holocaust denial, are directly punishable by to three years in prison or a fine. Other instances, such as attacks on non-mentioned minorities such as LGBT people, are similarly punishable, but need to fight their case under the broader umbrellas of personal honour or personality rights.