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Dignitas founder accused of profiteering

Dignitas founder Ludwig A. Minelli as seen in a picture taken in April 2018 Keystone

Ludwig Minelli, founder of one of Switzerland’s best known assisted suicide organisation Dignitas, has appeared before a Zurich district court on charges of profiteering – in the first case of its kind in Switzerland.

This content was published on May 18, 2018 - 14:14
SDA-RTS/swissinfo.ch/ilj

The non-profit group is often used by foreigners wanting an assisted suicide in Switzerland. Minelli denies the charges.

Presenting arguments to the court on Friday, the prosecutor said that Minelli had used "unauthorized commercial tactics" and charged "high fees which bear no relation to actual cost".

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.

+ Read more about how assisted suicide works in Switzerland

The 85-year-old Minelli stands accused in Uster district court of profiteering in three cases concerning German women who undertook an 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 ($99,980) donation, despite the cost for the assisted suicide being several thousand Swiss francs. The second case concerns a mother and daughter who were allegedly charged CHF10,000, double the usual cost.

Prosecutors are 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.

Anniversary, headlines

Minelli has strongly denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “unfounded and incomprehensible”.

 It’s not clear when the court will hand down the verdict.

 Dignitas is currently celebrating its 20th anniversaryExternal link 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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