Right-wing lawmaker escapes prosecution over U.S. boycott call
A right-wing Swiss lawmaker who called for a boycott of U.S. and Jewish goods was spared prosecution under anti-racism laws Wednesday when the upper house of parliament decided against lifting his immunity from prosecution.
A right-wing Swiss lawmaker who called for a boycott of U.S. and Jewish goods was spared prosecution under anti-racism laws Wednesday when the upper house of parliament, the Senate, decided against lifting his immunity from prosecution.
The 25-11 verdict came in spite of two votes against Rudolf Keller, leader of the small nationalist Swiss Democrats, by the lower house, the House of Representatives.
Keller, 43, made the call last July, reacting to pressure on Swiss banks leading up to their settlement with Holocaust survivors.
He urged the Swiss to boycott "all American and Jewish goods, restaurants and vacation offers" until the end of "these mean and totally unjustified attacks and complaints against Switzerland, Swiss firms and banks."
His call was in response to a U.S. plan, supported by major Jewish organizations, to impose increasing sanctions on Switzerland until the banks agreed to a settlement of claims by heirs of Holocaust victims, who said the Swiss banks had failed to return the assets of their relatives who were killed by the Nazis in World War II.
In August, Switzerland's two biggest banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion in an out-of-court settlement of the claims.
Keller's call was met with a criminal complaint for racism, which led Zurich state authorities to ask that his immunity be lifted.
The Swiss Jewish Organisation said Wednesday it regretted the Senate decision because it would send a wrong and dangerous signal to Swiss society.
Francois Loeb, a member of the lower house and himself Jewish, said the Senate decision was wrong. He said called on Keller to publicly apologize for his anti-Jewish statements.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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