Swiss Cabinet members react to Zug killings

Three Cabinet ministers have objected to boosting security at public buildings after the Zug killings Keystone Archive

Three members of Switzerland's cabinet have objected to the tightening security measures to protect politicians, following Thursday's massacre at the regional parliament building in Zug. The Interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, the Defence minister, Samuel Schmid and the Finance minister, Kaspar Villiger said they did not want to create a "divide between citizens and politics."

This content was published on September 29, 2001 - 14:26

Schmid told the Swiss newspaper "Neue Luzerner Zeitung" he did not want the Zug killings to distance the electorate from politicians. "We must remain close to the people," he said.

The Defence minister said he saw no reason to modify the Swiss military system which calls for soldiers to keep arms and ammunition in a safe place at home.

"The man did not use an army weapon and never did any military service," Schmid said. "It's the terrible and criminal act of a mentally ill person."

Dreifuss takes the bus

The Swiss Interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, said she wanted to maintain close ties with the public. In an interview with the Swiss newspaper, "Tages-Anzeiger", she said she would continue using public transportation to go to work.

"I took the bus on Friday as usual," Dreifuss said. "A passenger congratulated me and thanked me for doing so."

She also said that politicians were becoming the scapegoats of our anonymous society. Frustrated citizens, who tell the government when they feel treated unfairly, should be taken more seriously in the future, she added.

The Finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, told Swiss German radio on Saturday that Thursday's act was "isolated" and "driven by hatred towards the State."

"There is always an insurmountable conflict between an open society and absolute security."

Security measures

Despite reassurances from cabinet members, security has been stepped up at public buildings. Beginning on Monday, visitors will have to pass through metal detectors at the entrance of the parliament building in the capital, Bern.

Visitors and parliamentarians are also being asked to wear badges. Added to this, visitors must also leave their personal belongings outside the building.

In addition, cantonal authorities have introduced more controls as a result of the attack. Police will from now on patrol the Zurich town hall during sessions of the cantonal parliament. Similar steps have been taken in Thurgau.

In St Gallen, a public debate about security controls has been planned, and a security review is also underway in Appenzell Innerrhoden.

The Zug killings

Thursday's massacre in Zug began when a man identified as Friedrich Leibacher opened fire during a session of the regional assembly. Leibacher, a 57-year-old from canton Zurich, shot and killed 14 people, including three government members, before committing suicide, police said.

The rampage left 14 other people hospitalised.

An official investigation into the attack has been opened. The motive of the gunman apparently was related to a row with a bus driver two years ago, authorities said.

In 1998, Leibacher argued with a bus driver, and threatened him with a handgun, an incident which set off a long series of legal cases, all of which Leibacher lost, authorities said.

The gunman had already been convicted in 1970 of a string of offences. He was subsequently interned in a psychiatric clinic.

Church bells to ring

Switzerland's Catholic and Protestant communities announced on Saturday they would ring church bells across the country on Monday at noon in memory of the Zug victims. The country is also expected to hold a minute of silence at 10am.

Around 500 official guests from Switzerland and abroad are expected to attend Monday's funeral service at St Michael's Church in Zug.

swissinfo with agencies

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