Swiss authorities against pardonning hunger striker

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Swiss authorities voted Thursday against pardonning a jailed and ailing pro-cannabis campaigner who has been on hunger strike for more than 80 consecutive days.

The case of Bernard Rappaz has pit the doctors refusing to force-feed him against a legal establishment intent on upholding his sentence and the regional authorities that sought his prosecution.

Authorities decided Thursday that the severely weakened 57-year-old hemp farmer, who is being held in a secure ward at Geneva university hospital, must serve out his full sentence.

Rappaz was sentenced to five years and eight months on drugs offences and money laundering in 2008 after years of conflict with the authorities in the southern canton of Valais.

Convicted several times for dealing in cannabis, he describes himself as a political prisoner.

He was remanded to serve his sentence in March and interrupted an intermittent hunger strike for the last time in September.

Switzerland's supreme court confirmed last month that the authorities in Valais could order force feeding.

However Geneva hospital rejected the court injunction and argued that such a step was "inapplicable" because of the "constraint that would be necessary," after their patient "reiterated his absolute refusal to submit to it."

It invoked local, federal and international laws and underlined in a statement that Rappaz was capable of making a lucid choice, regardless of whether he was jailed or not.

© 2010 AFP

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