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Police chief nominated despite Turkish scandal

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13:02 CEST+02:00
Controversy is mounting over the canton of Valais's police chief after he was nominated to stand for election in November to the cantonal government at a stormy meeting of the Liberal Radical party.

A 61 percent majority of 2,172 delegates on Thursday night approved the nomination of Christian Varone over two other candidates, despite uncertainty about his involvement in a Turkish scandal.

The canton’s top policeman faces an accusation that he stole a fragment of marble regarded as an archeological treasure from Turkey while on a summer holiday.

Varone was detained in prison for five days after the artefact was discovered in his luggage at the Antalya airport as he was preparing to leave the country on July 27th.

Upon his return to Switzerland he declared that the removal of the rock was an innocent mistake.

But authorities in Turkey are planning to prosecute him for attempting to export a cultural artefact in violation of Turkish law.

A court is schedule to hear the case on September 25th.

Many observers believed the case would scotch the political future of Varone, otherwise regarded as an honest and competent police commander with political ambitions.

And opposition politicians have already lined up to criticize his candidacy in light of the Turkish case.

Varone said he would leave the door open for a “re-evaluation” of his nomination if the judgment in Turkish case is found against him, according to a report from Le Matin.

But Pascale Couchepin, a party member and former Swiss federal cabinet minister and president, said the policeman’s declaration was “unsatisfactory”.

For the good of the party, Varone should agree to step aside if he is found guilty in the Turkish case, Couchepin said, while some party members booed and hissed, Le Matin reported.

Varone defended himself by evoking the “presumption of innocence” in the Turkish case and also the “proportionality of the mistake” involved.

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