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Top Geneva politician faces 'punch-up' charges

Malcolm Curtis · 26 Jan 2012, 13:23

Published: 26 Jan 2012 15:33 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Jan 2012 13:23 GMT+01:00

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Geneva’s chief prosecutor has summoned one of the canton’s top politicians to answer charges of hitting a bartender during a New Year’s Eve fight at a nightclub.

Mark Muller, the cantonal minister for construction and information technology, admits to being involved in a “virile altercation” but denies hitting the barman.

The employee of the Moulin à Danses club is pressing assault charges, while Muller has filed a counter-complaint, with each man claiming different stories about the incident.

Muller, a member of the centre-right Liberal-Radical party, brushed aside calls for his resignation after news of the incident emerged several days afterward.

On Wednesday, chief prosecutor Daniel Zappelli announced a date of February 9th for Muller to formally answer the accusations.

The minister held a press conference on January 14th to express his apologies to fellow members of the government and to the public for his “inadequate behaviour”.

He described going to the nightclub at around 5am on New Year’s Day to meet a girlfriend, also an employee of the club.

Muller said a barman separated him from his girlfriend, verbally insulted him for “political reasons” and asked him to leave, which he did.

Although “it is not in my temperament to lose my cool,” Muller said he became angry after learning that the bartender had insulted and hit his friend.

The politician said when the bartender came outside, the pair got into a shoving match lasting “10 or 15 seconds”.

The cabinet minister denied being drunk, saying “I had a few glasses but I was not particularly inebriated.”

The bartender, who reportedly did not know who Muller was, claims he was hit several times by the cabinet minister and needed treatment for his injuries, according to the Tribune de Genève.

The bartender claims he separated Muller and his friend after discovering them in the employees’ washroom, the newspaper reported.

It’s not the first time Muller has stared down controversy.

As minister responsible for housing, he came under fire for renting a seven-room apartment in the centre of Geneva for 1,800 francs ($2,000) a month, well below the market rate.

The apartment has a controlled rent, although Muller has publicly opposed rent controls.

So far, fellow members of cabinet and his party are waiting for the judicial process to clear the air before casting judgment.

But one prominent Geneva MP, Eric Stauffer, of the Mouvement Citoyens Genevois (MCG) party, said the position of Muller was “untenable”.

Stauffer said his resignation was but a matter of days away, if not hours, according to the Tribune de Genève.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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