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The Week in Switzerland

Concerns about a rise in right-wing extremism, another chapter in the controversy about Switzerland's history during the Holocaust era, and an alleged justice scandal in canton Ticino, were making the headlines this week in Switzerland.

This content was published on August 12, 2000 - 13:21

The debate about a perceived increase in right-wing activities in Germany spread to Switzerland this week, after a senior police official called for extra resources to counter the rise in right-wing extremism and racism.

The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, also came forward and announced she was considering tightening legislation to clamp down on right-wing militants. Among the proposals is a ban of public gathering of extremists and displays of Nazi emblems.

This week also marked what might be the final chapter in the controversy between Jewish organisations and Swiss banks over a $1.25 billion (SFr2 billion) settlement to compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs for funds blocked in Switzerland since the Nazi era.

The New York judge, Edward Korman, officially put into effect the global settlement deal agreed by Switzerland's main banks, UBS and Credit Suisse in 1998. A plan for the distribution of the money will now be drawn up. There are about 600,000 claimants.

An alleged justice scandal in canton Ticino was back in the headlines after Italy's finance minister criticised the Swiss authorities for failing to offer legal assistance in a case involving international cigarette smuggling.

The Swiss government emphasised that it could not offer legal assistance because cigarette smuggling is only a customs offence under Swiss law.

Despite the legal wrangling in Ticino, most eyes were focused on the International Film Festival in Locarno, which ends this weekend with the awarding of "leopards" for the best films and their makers.

The ten-day event attracted tens of thousands of spectators to the cinemas and the open-air screenings on the Piazza Grande in central Locarno, despite the often bad weather.

In sport, this week saw the world's biggest athletics meeting taking place in Zurich. Top athletes from around the world competed in the prestigious Weltklasse meeting in Zurich on Friday in one of the final warm-ups before next month's Olympic Games in Sydney.

There were mixed fortunes for Switzerland's football teams. Swiss champions St Gallen lost to Turkey's top team and current Champions League title holders, Galatasaray Istanbul 1-2.

The other Swiss teams won their first leg matches in the qualifying round of the Uefa Cup competition. Basel beat Folgore of San Marino 5-1, and Lausanne narrowly defeated Cork City from the Irish Republic 1-0.

by Urs Geiser

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