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Terrorism Government probes PLO connection

Fire and police officers at the crash scene of the Swissair flight, which came down in Würenlingen on February 21, 1970

(Keystone)

The task force investigating whether Switzerland struck a secret deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1970s has begun work. It will also consider whether a bomb attack on a plane in Switzerland was investigated thoroughly enough.

The Interdepartmental Working Group 1970 was set up following revelations in the book Schweizer Terrorjahreexternal link (Swiss terror years) by journalist Marcel Gyr. 

According to Gyr’s research, former Foreign Minister Pierre Graber, who died in 2003, conducted a secret meeting with the PLO in 1970 in an effort to prevent further terrorist attacks on Swiss targets.

Switzerland felt the impact of several attacks, such as the bombing that caused a Swissair plane to crash in Würenlingen, shortly after take-off from Zürich, killing all 47 people on board. No one was ever charged with that bombing.

Two questions

The foreign ministry saidexternal link on Friday that the task force, which includes police, justice and military officials and is headed by the foreign ministry, would try to answer not only whether neutral Switzerland cut the deal with the PLO in September 1970, but whether the investigation into the Swissair bombing had been thorough. It will mostly be conducting research in the Swiss Federal Archives, the statement said.

Gyr wrote that Graber had reached an agreement with the PLO: in exchange for the group refraining from further attacks on Swiss targets, Switzerland would provide the PLO with diplomatic assistance in Geneva, a base of the United Nations.

Gyr has said that his research, which has caused shockwaves in Switzerland, also unearthed legitimate questions about whether the Swiss justice system swept its investigation of the Swissair bombing under the carpet in the wake of the PLO pact.

The Interdepartmental Working Group 1970 will submit its final report by the end of April 2016, the foreign ministry statement added. In its report, the working group can also make recommendations on what further action should be taken.

Some involved with the government during the period have expressed doubts about Gyr’s conclusions, but Gyr stands by his account. He told Reuters that he welcomed the probe into the matter.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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