GENEVA – Twelve Swiss activists who were brought to trial for organizing a protest in a Credit Suisse office to denounce the bank for contributing to global warming with its business were acquitted on Monday, the trial taking on huge symbolic value for anti-climate change activism, Switzerland’s RTS television reported.
The activists were seated in the dock for trespassing and then refusing to pay a fine of 21,600 Swiss francs ($22,270) for staging that protest, organized in November 2018 in Lausanne and at which they dressed as tennis players to get the attention of Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer and call upon him to end his relationship with the bank.
In its ruling on Monday, the court in Renens, a town near Lausanne, said that “the climate change emergency and the slowness and half-heartedness of the political and legal measures” to deal with it justified a protest that, it emphasized, was conducted peacefully and lasted only a few minutes.
The chief magistrate of the court added, upon delivering the ruling that the court took into account the innocent tone of the protest and the fact that it was useful for “getting the attention of the media” and “establishing a clear link between the accused bank and the popular figure of Federer.”
The trial was viewed by the Swiss media and public opinion as the country’s first big trial against the climate change protest movement, which has gained significant strength since thousands of young Swiss last year joined the student strikes launched by Greta Thunberg.
The young Swedish activist, who this Friday is scheduled to participate in the demonstration against climate change in Lausanne and to travel shortly thereafter to the Davos Forum, last week expressed support on her Twitter account for the 12 accused and added her voice to the pressure campaign against Federer to break his ties with Credit Suisse.
In response to that pressure, the No. 3-ranked world tennis great, one of Switzerland’s best-known athletes and celebrities and who has appeared in assorted Credit Suisse advertisements, on the weekend felt obligated to issue a statement in which he said he takes the fight against climate change “very seriously.”
Federer, who is currently in Australia to compete in the year’s first Grand Slam tourney in Melbourne, also joined other famous tennis players in a donation campaign to help that country deal with the devastating wildfires that have destroyed thousands of square miles and a significant amount of property, the move intended to be evidence of his environmental sensitivity.
In addition, Credit Suisse has defended itself in the face of the criticism, emphasizing in another statement its efforts to prevent global warming via other investments and stressing the “central role” its financing place in economic transition and alternatives to fossil fuels.
The Renens court could set a legal precedent for a year in which cases on climate questions will continue to be heard in Swiss courts, this at a time of frequent ecological demonstrations and when which the Greens have become the fourth largest political force in the Swiss parliamentary spectrum.