Zermatt restaurateurs who defied Covid measures released

Police used concrete blocks to temporarily block the entrance to the Walliserkanne restaurant in Zermatt after it was closed and the owners were arrested for not respecting the Covid-19 law. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Three restaurateurs in Zermatt, who were arrested after repeatedly ignoring police orders to close their establishment, have been released. Their licence to operate has been suspended for a undefined period.

This content was published on November 5, 2021

On Thursday, a court rejected a request by the public prosecutor to keep them in pre-trial detention for a month.

The three were arrested on Sunday after reopening their restaurant despite a police order to close it two days earlier. The police order had come after repeated inspections showed the restaurant had continually refused to implement Covid-19 rules, notably the checking of clients' Covid certificates and the obligation to wear a mask indoors.

Following their arrest, the establishment in the mountain resort of Zermatt became a site for demonstrations by those opposed to Covid restrictions, including the Mass-Voll movement which has organised protests across the country. The case also has also spurred online debates in Switzerland, including with the revelation on Thursday that a graffiti on the wall of the restaurant clearly read “WWG1WA” (“where we go one, we go all”) – a slogan associated with the far-right QAnon movement.

After the arrest, the public prosecutor's office had applied for pre-trial detention. The court did not rule out that – at least theoretically – the restauranteurs' refusal to accept the restrictions could promote the spread of the Covid virus and therefore harm public health but this did not justify further detention.

Since the entry into force and subsequent extension of the Covid certificate requirement, the local police of canton Valais, where Zermatt is located, had inspected the restaurant several times and had reported the case to the public prosecutor’s office. This led to the opening of a criminal investigation.

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