Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker

Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker

Swiss authorities should drop charges against a pastor who offered food and shelter to someone whose request for asylum had been rejected, said Amnesty International ahead of tomorrow’s decision by the Public Prosecutor on whether to press on with the case and indict him.

Pastor Norbert Valley, who was taken from his Sunday service by police for questioning, is charged with “facilitating the illegal stay” of a Togolese man. Following his refusal to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, the Public Prosecutor will decide tomorrow whether to issue an indictment.

“To criminalize this compassionate act is not only absurd but shows the extreme lengths the authorities will go to in order to try and curb the humanitarian activities of those who want to help refugees and asylum-seekers,” said Cyrielle Huguenot, migration campaigner for Amnesty International Switzerland.

“Norbert Valley has done nothing wrong. He simply showed kindness to someone in a difficult situation and he should be commended for it, not fined.”

Pastor Valley was questioned by police in February when they turned up at his church in Le Locle in the middle of the Sunday sermon.

He was charged, under Article 116 of the Swiss Foreigners Law, with “the facilitation of the illegal stay of a citizen from Togo, through the repeated provision of shelter and food”.

If indicted, Pastor Valley would have to face a criminal trial.

“Sadly, Pastor Valley’s case is not an isolated one but just the latest in a series of cases across Europe that have seen authorities using immigration and anti-smuggling laws to criminalise acts of solidarity,” said Cyrielle Huguenot.

“These cases are not just about the prosecution of individuals but about creating an atmosphere where people displaying basic human decency are stigmatised and discouraged from helping other human beings. Pastor Valley has become emblematic of all those who refuse to be cowed into silence and the charges against him should be dropped.”

Amnesty International spokespeople, together with Sant’Egidio, will be outside the public ministry in Neuchâtel on 25 October to show solidarity with Pastor Valley.

For more information or to arrange an interview on the ground or in London contact bgerber@amnesty.ch +41 79 379 80 37  (German) or abovard@amnesty.ch  +41 79 430 14 68  (French)  or press@amnesty.org or 0044 (0) 20 7413 5566