Swiss want Kadhafi picture removed from far-right poster

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Swiss authorities on Thursday ordered a far-right party to remove a picture of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi from a campaign poster that calls for foreign criminals to be expelled.

Geneva canton authorities said that, with the federal authorities, they had "ordered the modification of a poster of the Geneva Citizens' Movement (MCG)" that was an "outrage to foreign states."

"The poster, dedicated to the initiative for the expulsion of foreign criminals, hits out directly at the Libyan head of state," it added in a statement.

The far-right party's poster is part of a campaign ahead of a nationwide referendum on whether foreign criminals who have committed certain crimes should be stripped of their right to remain in Switzerland and deported to their home countries.

In its poster in support of the initiative, the MCG juxtaposed a photo of Kaddafi against the text: "He wants to destroy Switzerland".

The posters have yet to be put up in city but have been sent by post to residents.

"With no link to the subject of the vote, this attack harms the superior interests of Switzerland, of our canton and its citizens abroad," said Geneva authorities.

They said it "complicates the efforts to restore the climate of confidence between the two states."

The MCG described the authorities' move as censorship.

"At the moment, we are not withdrawing these posters. In a state of law, it is a tribunal, and it alone, that can make such a decision, a decision which we will contest immediately," it said.

"This is because it would be a very serious infringement of our inviolable democratic rights," it said in a statement.

Relations between Bern and Tripoli were deeply strained after the July 2008 arrest of a son of Kadhafi, Hannibal, in Geneva.

Hannibal was later released, but the move sparked a series of reprisals from Libya. Two Swiss citizens were blocked from leaving Libyan territory until this year.

Switzerland will vote November 28 on the far-right initiative for foreigners who have committed crimes such as murder, rape or drug trafficking to be expelled.

Under the initiative, the expulsion would also apply on foreigners found to have abused social security.

© 2010 AFP

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