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Switzerland ‘attack’ angers Brazilians

Published on 14/02/2009

SAO PAULO - The country's top television networks and newspapers gave prominent play to the case of Paula Oliveira, a 26-year-old Brazilian lawyer who claimed to have been grabbed Monday near Zurich by three neo-Nazi skinheads who cut initials into her body.

Swiss police Friday said Oliveira’s assertion that she had been three months pregnant with twins at the time, and that she lost them as a result of the violence, was false.

"The medical clarification from the Institute of Forensic Medicine and the University Hospital of Zurich was that the 26-year-old woman was not pregnant at the time of the incident," the police in a statement.

They also questioned the source of the initials SVP — the initials in German of Switzerland’s extreme-right, anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party — carved into her stomach and thighs.

The first indications of the investigation are that "auto-mutilation is probable," Walter Baer, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, told reporters in Switzerland.

But the Swiss boyfriend of Paula Oliveira, Marco Trepp, 39, told Swiss reporters that everything his partner said was "100 percent true," according to the Brazilian news website G1.

On Thursday, all the major media in Brazil had expressed outrage over Oliveira’s account, saying she had suffered racist "torture" in Switzerland.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Thursday had also summoned a diplomat from the Swiss embassy to express his "deep concern" over "a case with obvious xenophobic motives."

He demanded Brazil be informed of the results of the Swiss police investigation.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, quoted by the daily O Globo, said: "We can’t remain quiet in the face of such violence."

Friday’s newspapers, published before the Swiss police statement, were filled with accounts of how the alleged attack on Oliveira revealed a rise in hate crimes in Europe as a result of the global economic crisis.

"The intolerance and xenophobia that had been dormant in Europe is waking up," an editorialist in the Folha de S. Paulo daily, Barbara Gancia, wrote.

Another paper, O Estado de S. Paulo, quoted Oliveira’s father, Paulo Oliveira, accusing the Swiss police of wanting "to transform the victim into the guilty party."

The news website Globo reported after the Swiss police statement that the father was declining to make any further comment.