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Security in Geneva Secret service information led to pass withdrawal

Those involved worked as baggage handlers

(Keystone)

More than 30 Muslim employees at Geneva airport had their runway access passes withdrawn in December. After an initial lack of information on the move, the head of Geneva’s security ministry, Pierre Maudet, has now spoken out about the reasons behind the decision.  

In an interview with French-language newspaper Le Temps, Maudet said the measure was justified and based on the suspicion that some of the employees, who were baggage handlers, had become radicalised.

The withdrawal of the badges was based on the evaluation of information given to the Geneva authorities by the French intelligence service after the attacks in Paris in November, he said. Lists compiled by canton Geneva also played a role. Those files are currently being “painstakingly” checked over.

Maudet emphasised that not all of those affected had been dismissed, a few had been reassigned to different roles, and not all of the cases involved were connected to a possible radicalisation.

“It is imperative to increase vigilance at the airport,” he told the paper. The withdrawal of the badges was a “provisional measure”. He added that before a definitive decision is taken, each person will have their case heard. Afterwards appeals will be possible at a Federal level.

Initial confusion

Three weeks after the passes were first withdrawn on December 23, 2015, concerns were expressed over the lack of information made available. “Even those concerned haven’t been able to find out why,” lawyer Pierre Bayenet, the representative for five staff members told Swiss Public Television, SRF, at the time. Union representatives have also called for the presumption of innocence to be respected.

Swiss police will grant the legal representatives of the affected employees access to the police files, Maudet said in the interview.

In early December it was discovered that French security services had files on two former baggage handlers at the airport, who were French citizens believed to have been radicalised. The pair were no longer working at the airport when the French security services began monitoring them.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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