ZURICH – Reuters
Switzerland has rejected a Turkish request for legal assistance in prosecuting a suspect accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ruling that the comments in question were protected by Swiss free speech provisions.
Switzerland helps foreign prosecutors only if the crime they are investigating is a criminal offence in Switzerland as well, and that was not the case here, a spokesman for the Federal Office of Justice said on March 17.
“If similar criticism of a member of the government were expressed in Switzerland within the framework of a political discussion, this would be tolerated as a free expression of opinion,” he said.
He did not identify the suspect in the case, which arose in part from postings on social media.
Three similar requests from Turkey are still pending and would be judged individually on their merits, he added.
Ties have become increasingly tense between Turkey and many European countries over Turkish campaigning for a constitution referendum next month.
The Swiss government said last week, however, there was no reason to ban the Turkish foreign minister from addressing a rally in Zurich despite local authorities’ opposition.
The speech was eventually canceled for lack of a venue.
Swiss government statistics show around 68,000 Turkish citizens live in Switzerland, a nation of 8.3 million whose population is a quarter foreign.