Home News Shocking attack on foreigner in Switzerland

Shocking attack on foreigner in Switzerland

Published on 13/02/2009

GENEVA - Zurich police on Thursday were investigating an alleged skinhead assault on a pregnant Brazilian woman that caused her to miscarry twins and left her scarred with the initials of Switzerland's main right-wing party.

Details of the attack shocked the Swiss public and led Brazilian officials to suggest it was prompted by xenophobia.

Zurich police said details were not yet clear but a man called Monday evening to report that a woman at a Zurich train station needed help. When police found her, she had the letters carved into her skin and told them she suffered a miscarriage after the attack.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry and Brazilian media reported that three skinheads, one with a Nazi symbol tattooed on his forehead, attacked the woman outside a local train station in Zurich while she was heading home. She was speaking in Portuguese to her mother on a cell phone when she was confronted.

Brazil’s foreign ministry expressed "great concern" about the attack in a quickly arranged meeting Thursday in Brasilia with Swiss diplomats. Foreign Minister Celso Amorim urged Swiss investigators to act with "transparency" so both countries could learn exactly what happened.

"There is a very strong appearance of xenophobia", Amorim said. "The person was not robbed, apparently she was not raped. That shows there was another motivation".

Pictures of the smiling, pregnant woman were printed in Brazilian newspapers Thursday next to those of a bare stomach and legs with the initials SVP, presumably for "Schweizerische Volkspartei" (Swiss People’s Party), carved in several places.

The woman was identified by family members as 26-year-old Paula Oliveira, a lawyer working for European shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk.

"What they did to my daughter is like a horror movie", the woman’s father, lawyer Paulo Oliveira, told Brazil’s Globo TV. He said she was cut about 100 times in an attack that lasted 10 minutes.

The woman moved to Switzerland several years ago to work for Maersk, and was pregnant with twins and planning to soon get married, according to her uncle Silvio Oliveira.

The Swiss People’s Party takes a forceful stance against immigration. It led campaigns against Swiss integration in Europe and pursued restricting asylum laws to more easily expel foreign nationals.

But the party is part of Switzerland’s broad coalition government and never had links to neo-Nazism.

"This is a country of law, where every human being deserves respect", Oskar Freysinger, a nationalist lawmaker in the party, told The Associated Press. "If that really was someone from our party, we wouldn’t hesitate for a second. That person would be immediately kicked out".

Brazilians reacted with outrage to news of the attack.

"I don’t have any desire to go travel there now. I think that if the Swiss government doesn’t stand up for what happened, then they are closing the door to Brazilians", said banker Samuel Mateus in Sao Paulo.

[AP / Bradley S. Klapper, Alan Clendenning, Carolina Escalera, Marco Sibaja / Expatica]