Last August, an incendiary advertisement claiming that “Kosovars slash the Swiss” was released as part of the SVP’s campaign to "stop mass immigration". Two Kosovar people made public complaints about the ads on the grounds that they discriminated against an entire ethnic group.
A criminal investigation was then launched in October last year, online news site 20 Minuten reported.
The ad described an incident, which took place on August 15th 2011 at Interlaken, a tourist resort in the Bernese Alps. According to news reports, a Kosovar man attempted to kill a Swiss Alpine wrestler by cutting his throat with a knife.
Some newspapers refused to publish the ad in its original form but agreed to go to press with a toned down version that read: "A Kosovar slashes a Swiss". However, the original ad was widely distributed online by the SVP as part of its initiative.
Now Zurich prosecutor Hans Maurer is opening criminal proceedings against some of the SVP’s top politicians for infringement of Switzerland's anti-racism laws. Those listed in the proceedings include the SVP’s president Toni Brunner, vice president Christoph Blocher and parliamentary leader Adrian Amstutz.
Maurer now wants to find out how the party arrived at the controversial text.
It is possible that several of those implicated will seek to rely on parliamentary immunity, which prevents a politician from having to answer charges where he can show a link between his work as a parliamentarian and the issue in question.
Christoph Blocher, who is already seeking immunity for his involvement in the affair that led to the resignation of former central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand, will probably not be able to make use of it in this case because he had no parliamentary mandate at the time in question.
David Gibor, the lawyer for the complainants, believes the ad should have immediately been taken down, and is disappointed that it is still visible on the SVP website.
"All members of the initiative committee are well aware of the nationwide outrage and, after the criminal complaint was made, of the potentially criminal content of the advertisement,” Gibor told the newspaper.