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Switzerland to impose tougher penalties for violent protesters

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Switzerland to impose tougher penalties for violent protesters
A man is arrested at an anti-coronavirus protest in Bern. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland on Tuesday toughened the penalties for rioters and violent protesters, including increasing minimum jail time and toughening penalties for first-time offenders.

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The Swiss Council of States on Tuesday passed a proposal which would tighten penalties for certain public order offences. 

The changes have been made to reflect a ‘change in social values’, with the new framework targeting rioters who attack police, fire brigades and ambulances during protests. 

Authorities have called for a four-fold increase in fines for violence and threats against authorities. 

‘We will watch their backs’

Stefan Engler, of the conservative Swiss People’s Party, said the changes were necessary to show police and other authorities that they have government support. 

“Those who take the rap for our security can expect that in return we will watch their backs,” Engler said. 

Engler said attacks on police had been increasing and there was a need to respond to the criticism of police unions that perpetrators need to be threatened with more severe punishments. 

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Minister of Justice Karin Keller-Sutter opposed the changes, saying that the current punishments were sufficient “as long as you actually apply them”. 

IN PICTURES: Inside Switzerland's anti-coronavirus lockdown protests 

The penalty for grievous bodily harm will be extended from six months to a year in order to punish public attacks which impaired the population’s sense of security. 

Harassment over the telephone will now attract a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. 

Offences against commercial property will be given a minimum of six months. 

The current preference for custodial sentences to be given to first-time offenders will be changed, with the new law to frame it as a possibility rather than a rule. 

This was a controversial change. While it was supported by the SVP, members of the Greens said that it was likely to lead to repeat offenders. 

 

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