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Heil Tolerance! Nazi salute OK in Switzerland…if it's not political

Published time: May 22, 2014 13:17
Edited time: May 22, 2014 16:56

Reuters / Darren Hauck

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A Nazi salute may – or may not – land you in jail in Switzerland. Apparently, you are safe if you manage to prove that it was intended as a personal statement and not a marker of political affiliation, the country’s highest court has ruled.

The decision, entitled “Hitler salute in public not always punishable,” implies the following: “Unless one is proven to be spreading racist ideology, they’re free to express a personal sentiment or belief with the gesture.” That is what Lausanne’s Federal Tribunal said Wednesday, according to AP.

The hearing was a continuation of earlier 2010 proceedings in the case of a man who faced the racial discrimination conviction for taking part in an August demonstration of that year. The rally, involving a crowd of 150 people, was held a week after the Swiss National Day at a historic place where the modern Swiss Confederation is believed to have been born in 1291.

The man, according to the papers, had substituted the Swiss oath with a 20-second Nazi salute – something a local court initially ruled to be a crime, with the decision now overturned.

Switzerland is not without its own issues of racial hatred. For the past 10 years, the country has seen a steady presence of right-wing groups, which show up each National Day to disrupt the occasion.

A 1995 law prohibits all Nazi symbolism from being spread for the purpose of promoting racist ideology. But still in 2010 the Swiss Federal Council, which included the president, decided not to ban the Nazi salute and swastika symbol. Many other countries, including Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, deem the Nazi salute illegal.

A similar case existed in Switzerland with regard to some verbal expressions that may be deemed insulting, including “foreign swine” or “filthy asylum seeker” uttered in German. However, since those are common and widespread insults in the German language, the court ruled they do not amount to racist attacks.

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