Switzerland: Hitler salute in public not always a crime
According to the Swiss Supreme Court, giving the Nazi salute is not an unpermitted act of racist discrimination if the gesture is meant solely as an expression of personal conviction. The Associated Press reports that the court has released a ruling entitled "Hitler salute in public not always punishable".
According to the verdict, such behavior is only punishable when the gesture is used to disseminate racist ideology. If someone gives the Nazi salute merely to demonstrate his or her convictions, that is not an example of dissemination, according to the court.
The decision by the court in Lausanne overturned last year's lower court ruling in the case of a man charged with racial discrimination. Detectives said he committed that crime in August 2010 during a demonstration held in the famous Rütli Meadow above Lake Lucerne.
The event, organized by the right-wing extremist Party of Nationally-Oriented Swiss (PNOS) was attended by about 150 people and was held on the state holiday celebrating the foundation of Switzerland, when the country commemorates an agreement from 1 August 1291 of "eternal association". On that day, according to legend, the cantons of Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri concluded a defense pact "for eternity" in the Rütli Meadow which laid the basis for the Swiss Confederation.
According to the lower court verdict, the man concerned committed racial discrimination and was fined. He appealed and now the Supreme Court has sided with him.
This most recent verdict states that the man did not commit racial discrimination by publicly espousing National Socialism. In order for his behavior to constitute a felony, he would also have had to publicly "disseminate" the Nazi ideology, for example, by endeavoring to win others over to this idea or by strengthening their existing such convictions.
The fact that the Nazi salute of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil", as well as the Nazi swastika and other extremist symbols, are basically not banned in Switzerland is often a source of political discussion, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper. Such practices are crimes in Austria or Germany.
In the Czech Republic one can be imprisoned for giving the Nazi salute, but the courts often address such actions through suspended sentences. However, in 2009 the Teplice District Court sentenced three men to up to 14 months behind bars for a photograph in which they appeared with the swastika flag of Nazi Germany and their arms raised in the Nazi greeting, and section 403 of the Czech Criminal Code makes even tougher sentences of up to 10 years in prison possible in cases of the promotion of a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, which giving the Nazi salute is considered to be.
The Swiss Supreme Court handed down yet another interesting, related ruling this past February. In that verdict, the court ruled that curses targeting nationality - such as "filthy Swiss" - do not constitute racial discrimination.
On the other hand, the defamatory phrase "black swine" is considered discriminatory because it refers to skin color. The court found that curses such as "crappy foreigner" or "bloody immigrant" are also basically in order because they can be used to refer to people of all races and religions without discriminating.
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