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Tennis-playing Swiss climate activists back on trial

The activists showed their relief on being acquitted in January. Keystone / Valentin Flauraud

A new trial of 12 climate activists who staged tennis matches at Credit Suisse bank branches gets underway in Switzerland on Tuesday. The activists were acquitted of charges of trespassing in January, but prosecutors have appealed the verdict.

This content was published on September 22, 2020 - 11:51
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The protest was carried out in 2018 to highlight alleged environmental abuses by Credit Suisse. The protesters specifically wanted tennis star Roger Federer to cancel his sponsorship deal with the bank because of its fossil fuel investments.

“I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors,” Federer stated in January.

The dozen activists were fined for trespassing but challenged the penalty. A district court in Lausanne ruled in their favour in January.

The president of the court and sole judge Philippe Colelough deemed their action “necessary and proportionate” given the climate emergency. In his view, their stunt was “the only effective way to get the bank to respond” and “the only way to get the necessary publicity” from the media and the public.

Prosecutors in canton Vaud, in western Switzerland, said the ruling was “a surprising response to a fundamental legal principle” and merited the opinion of a higher court. An appeal court will now decide on the case.

The tennis match stunt was one of many protests held over Switzerland in the last couple of years, including targeting other bank branches.

In July, environmental group Greenpeace filed a formal protest against Switzerland’s financial regulators over their perceived failure to impose climate policy rules.

Credit Suisse has defended its record environmental record, saying it is "committed to climate protection and achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement." The bank added that it had tightened climate guidelines and taken measures, such as the creation of a sustainability unit.

"In addition, we intend to provide at least CHF300 billion in sustainable financing over the next ten years," the bank said.

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