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Drugs squad chief acquitted of sex and corruption charges

Grossrieder is embraced by a supporter following the acquittal Keystone

A court in canton Fribourg has acquitted Paul Grossrieder, the suspended chief of the canton's police drugs squad, of all charges against him, including sex and corruption.

The verdict was greeted with a round of applause from the public gallery. The costs of the proceedings are to be paid by the canton.

Brigadier Grossrieder, who had served with the police for 30 years, had drawn much sympathy during the trial, particularly since the defence set out to prove that the case against him was put together incompetently and was part of a conspiracy.

The presiding judge, Peter Rentsch, invoked the principle of “in dubio pro reo,” or, when in doubt, find for the defendant. Rentsch found that after months of investigation into charges of sex with a suspect, aiding and abetting, bribery and breach of professional confidentiality, there was not enough evidence for a conviction.

Judge Rentsch also questioned the reliability of the chief prosecution witness, a prostitute and police informer who claimed Grossrieder had demanded sex in exchange for protection.

Grossrieder was arrested in March 1998, and a subsequent search of his home found 141 ecstasy tablets. It was around that time the sex charges were also made against him.

However, the court found no evidence of a witch-hunt against Groissrieder by the original investigating judges Patrick Lamon and Jacques Rayroud.

The state prosecutor, Anne Colliard Arnaud, who had walked out of the trial at one point, accusing the defence team of attacking her professional integrity, had been calling for a ten month jail sentence conditional on two years’ probation. Her office is now said to be waiting for the judgment on acquittal in writing before deciding whether to pursue further action.

After hearing the verdict with tears in his eyes, Grossrieder said he had given no thought to the question of damages, saying the main issue for him was his freedom. He added that he wanted to return to work.

That, however, will depend on the cantonal authorities, which are due to meet in August to decide whether to open a separate administrative inquiry and whether to lift Grossrieder’s suspension.

In response, Grossrieder said, “The ball now lies in the canton’s court. I have waited 27 months for an answer, now I’ll give them until the end of the month.”

The case has raised several issues about the canton’s judicial system. Franz Riklin, a criminal law professor at Fribourg University, said Grossrieder and his family had suffered “a great injustice” at the hands of the legal system. He also cited “numerous other cases where people had fallen foul of the arbitrary nature of canton Fribourg’s justice system, who did not have the power to defend themselves against the injustice levelled against them.”

Riklin added that Grossrieder’s trial showed the role of the media as a check and balance of the judicial system.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR