A dozen Swiss climate activists are facing trial after refusing to pay a fine for playing tennis on the premises of Credit Suisse to protest the bank’s fossil fuel investments.
The stunt was staged by young activists, many of them students, inside Credit Suisse branches in Geneva and Lausanne in November 2018.
They were fined CHF21,600 ($22,254) for trespassing. Their lawyers are contesting the fine saying that the activists were acting as whistleblowers for the climate emergency.
The trial over the unpaid fines opened on Tuesday at a district court in Lausanne and a verdict is expected next week.
“It is not enough to just go out on the street or to vote, we must disturb a little bit, so people stop acting like nothing is happening,” Paul Castelain, one of the activists, told Reuters outside the courtroom.
Video footage from 2018 shows students dressed in tennis whites playing matches inside Credit Suisse branches.
They wanted Swiss tennis star Roger Federer to drop his sponsorship deal with the bank because of its fossil fuels investments.
Credit Suisse, which had filed charges against the activists, said it respects their cause but deemed their actions unacceptable.
“Combating global warming is important,” the bank told Reuters. “Credit Suisse respects freedom of expression as a fundamental democratic right. [However,] to protect its clients, employees and branches, it does not tolerate unlawful attacks on its branches, irrespective of the perpetrators and their motives.”
Thousands of students have marched across Switzerland in recent months demanding stronger action on climate change. The financial sector has come under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels.
Credit Suisse in December said it will stop financing the development of new coal-fired power plants. The activists at the court told Reuters this was not enough.
The Swiss bank is also seeking to align its loan portfolios with objectives laid out in the Paris Agreement on climate change.