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Young Swiss politicians convicted for ‘gypsy’ poster

The two heads of the youth chapter of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party for canton Bern have been found guilty of racial discrimination. Nils Fiechter and Adrian Spahr were given suspended fines by Bern regional court.

The two were responsible for an image, against transit sites for foreign travellers, that was posted on Facebook ahead of cantonal elections in May 2018.

The illustration shows a character in traditional Swiss dress holding his nose in front of a pile of rubbish belonging to a caravan community. The accompanying text said “Millions in costs for construction and maintenance, dirt, faeces, noise, theft etc. Against the will of the local population. We say NO to transit sites for foreign gypsies!”

The Swiss Sinti and Roma Association filed a complaint against the imagery used for violating the racism law. The judge in Bern agreed, saying “gypsy” clearly referred to an ethnic group against which the poster was inciting hatred. Fiechter, a social insurance worker, and Spahr, a policeman, were fined CHF3,300 ($3,360) and CHF3,600 respectively. They can appeal.

The Swiss People’s Party has a history of using controversial posters. In 2007, it was denounced by the United Nations for posters depicting three white sheep booting a black sheep out of the country. It has also been criticised in some quarters for an anti-minaret poster featuring a woman in a burka and a Swiss flag pierced by minarets, and for another burka poster against naturalisation.