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Police tighten security at Rütli meadow

Over 100 right-wing extremists attempted to disrupt the celebrations last year

(Keystone Archive)

Security has been stepped up at Rütli meadow - Switzerland's historical birthplace - ahead of this year's national day festivities. Last year more than 100 right-wing extremists attempted to disrupt the celebrations, heckling the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, during his speech.

In an effort to head off similar ugly scenes at this year's event, police in canton Uri have drafted reinforcements from five neighbouring cantons. The Rütli commission, which manages the event, has also issued a ban on fireworks, megaphones and banners. Only Swiss or cantonal flags will be allowed to be paraded on the Rütli meadow.

Karl Egli, chief spokesman for Uri's police department, declined to reveal how many officers would be on duty on national day or what their tactics would be, but he guaranteed a "strong police presence".

"It's difficult to say what will happen since we have no information about whether the skinheads will come," Egli told swissinfo. "But after what happened last year, we have to be prepared."

The Rütli meadow, above Lake Lucerne, holds a special place in the hearts of many Swiss since it was there, according to tradition, that the Swiss confederation was born on August 1 1291, when the elders of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden swore their oaths of allegiance.

Former parliamentarian and president of the Rütli Commission, Judith Stamm, said the skinheads had been drawn to the Rütli on National Day for the past five years. However she played down the threat of further trouble.

"Last year the description in the media was not what happened in reality. In reality it was not so bad," she said. "The interesting thing is that I think they (the skinheads) want to demonstrate that they are the real Swiss patriots."

She said she believed that Villiger's speech, which warned against the dangers of Swiss isolationism, had incensed the skinheads and provoked an angry response. Her advice to this year's speaker, the parliamentarian, Franz Steinegger, was to steer clear of issues such as the European Union and the United Nations.

"I hope there won't be any problems but people are worried and that's why we have introduced certain measures this year. I hope they will reassure people that there will not be any trouble," said Stamm.

swissinfo with agencies

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