Police chief sentenced for Turkish ‘rock’ theft

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced Christian Varone, chief of the Valais cantonal police force, to a suspended jail term of one year and 15 days for stealing a cultural artefact from Turkey while on holiday.

Police chief sentenced for Turkish 'rock' theft
Christian Varone: now considering his options. Photo: RTS

The suspended sentence from the court in Antalya means Varone would only be liable to spend time in prison if he re-offends in Turkey, the ATS news service reported.

He was also fined the equivalent of 260 francs.

The sentence comes after Valais’s top policeman was found guilty of stealing a fragment of marble in July after it was discovered in his luggage at the Antalya airport as he was preparing to leave the country.

Varone maintained it was an innocent mistake, calling the "rock" a simple holiday souvenir.

But the Turkish authorities, who vigilantly guard their archeological treasures, would have nothing of it.

A report concluded that the marble was part of a column dating from Roman times.

Varone spent several days in prison after initially being arrested in Turkey on July 27th 2012.

He later took a leave of absence from his police job on November 23th in order to run for a seat in the Valais cantonal government.

Although he won the nomination for the Liberal Radical party, he bowed out of the race earlier this month after a poor showing in the first round of voting, with the Turkish scandal handicapping his chances.

In the second round of voting at the weekend, his party failed to win a seat in the cabinet.

The policeman told Le Matin that he would decide between now and April 1st whether to remain head of the force.

The Turkish conviction may make it difficult for him to keep the post.

Le Nouvelliste online, based in Valais, said Varone was taking several days to consider “diverse professional opportunities”.

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CERN ski club members injured in avalanche

Two members of the ski club of the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) were in critical condition on Sunday after an avalanche swept them and two colleagues down a mountainside in the canton of Valais, media reports said.

CERN ski club members injured in avalanche
Photo: Valais cantonal police

The incident occurred at around 11am when a group of five mountaineering skiers were heading down the north slope of the Pointes de Tsavolire, a 3,026-metre mountain, Valais cantonal police said in a statement.

The avalanche carried away four of the skiers, the statement said.

The fifth skier was able to dig out two of them, who were slightly injured, police said.

Emergency rescue workers from the Maison du Sauvetage and Air Glaciers found the other two, buried beneath more than 2.5 metres of snow.

They were transported by helicopter separately to hospitals in Lausanne and Sion for treatment of critical injuries, police said.

Marcel Délèze, guardian of the Becs de Bosson mountain hut, told local newspaper Le Nouvelliste, that the skiers were members of the CERN ski club.

He said they had earlier left the village of Eison in the Val d’Hérens.

Police said they were heading toward another valley, the Vallon de Réchy, south of Sierre, when the avalanche struck.

“In seeing that a sheet (of snow) had let go on this face, I called for help and then went to the site with people present in the hut,” Délèze said.

“We localized the skiers before the emergency services arrived but some were under three metres of snow,” he told Le Nouvelliste.

“To free them took a lot of time.”

The ages of the victims, reportedly Swiss citizens, were not disclosed.

Elsewhere, in the canton of Schwyz, a 31-year-old man died after falling 100 metres while hiking in steep terrain on the Rigi-Hochflue, a steep mountain overlooking Lake Lucerne near Lauerz, police said.

Other hikers discovered the man, a resident of the canton of Zug, in a seriously injured condition on Sunday around noon.

He was transported by helicopter to hospital where he died in the afternoon, Schwyz cantonal police said.