Swiss Court Rules Nazi Salute 'Not Always Illegal'

Switzerland's top court acquits neo-Nazi for 2010 incident, says Nazi salute permitted under certain circumstances.

Ari Soffer ,

Nazi salute (illustrative)
Nazi salute (illustrative)

Switzerland's top court has overturned a conviction handed to a man by a lower court for giving a Nazi salute at a demonstration three and a half years ago.

Nazi salutes are illegal in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, and Swiss anti-racism laws forbid the public display and dissemination of racist symbols.

But the Swiss Federal Tribunal's ruling, entitled "Hitler salute in public not always punishable", said that according to that law the fascist salute was only illegal if used "to spread racist ideology" and influence others, as opposed to declaring a "personal conviction", according to the Associated Press.

The incident in question took place at a 150-strong rally on August 2010, one week after the Swiss National Day. It was held at the site of the Ruetli Meadow above Lake Lucerne where the modern Swiss Confederation was born in 1291 according to a popular legend.

Instead of reciting the Swiss oath the defendant had performed a 20-second long Nazi salute. The problem of right-wing extremists disrupting the national event has become an annual issue.

In 2000 a neo-Nazi mob disrupted a speech by then-Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger, who reportedly was forced to enlist a private security firm to guarantee his security at the event.