Ludwig Minelli, founder of one of Switzerland’s best known assisted suicide organisation Dignitas, has been cleared by a Zurich district court on charges of profiteering – in the first case of its kind in Switzerland.
The non-profit group is often used by foreigners wanting an assisted suicide in Switzerland. Minelli had denied the charges.
The court made its decision on Friday, according to Swiss public television SRF.
Minelli receives CHF135,000 ($136,000) in court costs compensation from the public purse. This is to go towards the costs of his lawyer.
The prosecutor argued that Minelli had used "unauthorised commercial tactics" and charged "high fees which bear no relation to actual cost".
But the court came to the conclusion that the prosecutor had not been able to prove that there were selfish motivations in Minelli's case.
Under Swiss law, assisted suicide is not illegal as long as there are not “self-serving motives”, i.e. that too much money is charged. Breaking the law could mean up to five years in prison or a fine.
The 85-year-old Minelli was accused in Uster district court of profiteering in three cases concerning German women who committed assisted suicide in the years 2003 and 2010.
In one case, of an 80-year-old woman, Minelli is said to have accepted a CHF100,000 donation, despite the cost for the assisted suicide being several thousand Swiss francs. The second case concerned a mother and daughter who were allegedly charged CHF10,000 double the usual cost.
Prosecutors were calling for a fine of CHF7,500 and court costs, plus a suspended financial penalty of around CHF65,000, with a two-year probation period.
Minelli had strongly denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “unfounded and incomprehensible”.
Dignitas is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary since its founding on May 17, 1998.
The court case comes after Switzerland’s approach to assisted suicide made the international headlines again when David Goodall, a 104-year-old Australian scientist ended his life on May 10, using the services of Life Circle in Basel.
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