Court convicts 12 over tennis-playing protest at Swiss bank

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Pro-climate activists Paul Castelain, left, and.Claire Corbaz, right, talk to media after the guilty verdict of the trial of 12 pro-climate activists of the LAC collective (Lausanne Action Climat) that were prosecuted in appeal for organizing a tennis game in a Lausanne branch of Swiss bank Credit Suisse, in front of the court in Renens, Switzerland, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

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GENEVA (AP) — A Swiss appeals court on Thursday convicted a dozen environmental activists who took part in a rogue tennis match inside a Lausanne branch of Credit Suisse to protest the Swiss bank’s links to the petrochemicals sector.

Overturning a lower court’s acquittal in January, the appeals court in Renens, near Lausanne, ruled the activists could have used legal methods to make their point. The court handed down fines of up to 150 francs ($160) and short prison terms unless the defendants pay extra fines, which one defense lawyer said they would refuse to pay.

The protesters were arrested and ordered to pay fines over the November 2018 protests in which they donned tennis outfits and whacked balls at a Credit Suisse branch, riffing off the bank’s relationship with tennis ace Roger Federer as one of its pitchmen.

The defendants are expected to appeal to Switzerland’s highest court and possibly to Europe’s top human rights court.

“The third set will be at the (Swiss) Federal Tribunal, and maybe a fourth will be at the European Court of Human Rights,” said Laila Batou, a lawyer for one of the defendants.

Batou said by phone the protesters were relieved that the court upheld their argument that global warming amounted to a “imminent danger that threatens individuals” but the three-judge panel ruled that they could have used legal means to protest.

The court argued that Swiss lawmakers, who are debating a proposed law on curbing CO2 emissions, are addressing environmental concerns. But the protesters say that’s far from enough, insisting the real problem is inflows to Switzerland of money linked to use of carbon-spewing petrochemicals abroad — a boon to the Swiss economy that exposes “monstrous hypocrisy” of Swiss authorities, Batou said.

Credit Suisse noted the verdict and insisted it was “committed to climate protection” and the achievement of goals in the landmark Paris climate change accord of 2015.

“We have continuously tightened our policies in recent years and have implemented concrete measures,” the bank said. “Additionally, we intend to provide at least 300 billion Swiss francs of sustainable financing over the next 10 years.”


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