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Russians hunt Swiss ex-politico after jailbreak

Kyle James · 4 Aug 2011, 12:19

Published: 04 Aug 2011 13:11 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Aug 2011 12:19 GMT+02:00

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A Swiss man is being sought by Russian secret police after breaking out of a prison in the Caucasus. Once a promising young politician, Christoph Häusler is thought to have become involved in the Islamic extremist scene.

On July 21, 41-year-old Häusler was just hours away from being released after spending ten months in prison in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia in southern Russia.

A year earlier, he had been arrested at a checkpoint on the Georgian border after entering Russia from Finland without a visa, passport and an expired identification card. Authorities suspected that Häusler was in the region to join Islamist rebels.

It is likely that the former architect escaped from prison not to return to Switzerland, but rather to prevent himself from being extradited to his native country. Authorities in Zug have issued an international arrest warrant for Häusler.

Ten years ago, things looked very different for the man, who was setting off on a promising career in the Swiss People's Party (SVP). In 2002, he ran for political office under the slogan "Self-reliance, Self-responsibility and Freedom," winning a seat in the Zug parliament.

But not long afterwards, the young politician's life seemed to run off the tracks.

"From the middle of 2003 he was never seen in council meetings. In December he stepped down, we were never sure why," a Zug politician told the news website blick.ch.

His professional life was also on the skids. His real estate firm was liquidated and bankruptcy proceedings began in 2005.

"After 2005 we completely lost sight of him," a former business partner told Blick. "He went off the rails. He used to always be in a suit and tie, but toward the end, he looked very bedraggled."

"Somebody heard that he had landed in Ankara," he said. "That's that last I ever heard about Christoph."

Five years ago, Häusler converted to Islam in Turkey and authorities suspect he has links to extremist circles.

Häusler has several conspicuous tattoos, including a skull on the back of his head, a Celtic cross on his left forearm and the letters SS on his right hand.

While the police in North Ossetia are searching for the Swiss man, the local branch of the FSO secret police has gotten involved. The FSO is the successor organization to the Russian KGB. 

Kyle James (news@thelocal.com)

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