Advantage Swiss prosecutors vs Federer climate activists
Climate activists react on September 24, 2020 in Renens near Lausanne after the verdict of an appeal by the canton Vaud attorney general against a group of climate activists acquitted of playing tennis inside a Credit Suisse bank branch during a protest against Roger Federer's sponsorship. AFP
Swiss environmental activists who invaded a bank to play tennis dressed as Roger Federer were sentenced on appeal Thursday, overturning a judgement that the climate crisis justified their actions.
The case is a symbolic one that could set the tone for future environmentalist civil disobedience acts.
In November 2018, the activists entered a Credit Suisse branch in Lausanne to denounce Swiss tennis star Federer over his sponsorship deals with Switzerland's second-biggest bank and its financing of fossil fuels.
In January this year, a judge acquitted the 12 defendants, accepting their "state of necessity" legal argument, finding that they had acted legitimately in the face of the climate emergency.
But on Thursday, the Swiss canton of Vaud's appeal court in Lausanne heeded the view of the public prosecutor who urged judges to "practice law, not emotion", according to Swiss news agency ATS.
The young activists from the Lausanne Climate Action group were found guilty of "trespassing", among other minor charges, and sentenced to fines of 100 to 150 Swiss francs ($108-162, 93-139 euros), plus suspended financial penalties.
The three appeal court judges dismissed the environmental "state of necessity" argument.
They ruled there were other means, notably political, through which to combat climate change, and determined that the activists' intervention did not directly slow down greenhouse gas emissions.
Federer, 39, who has won a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, is Credit Suisse's global ambassador.
The activists wanted Federer to persuade Credit Suisse to stop investing in fossil fuels, or cut ties with the bank.
Backed by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, their #RogerWakeUp campaign triggered a response from Federer during the Australian Open in January, when he said he was "grateful to young climate activists for pushing us all to examine our behaviours".
"I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors."
Federer topped the 2020 Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes, raking in pre-tax earnings of $106.3 million -- with $100 million coming from appearance fees and endorsement deals.
Credit Suisse pledged it would no longer finance any new coal-fired power plants and would align its loan portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
However, according to the #RogerWakeUp campaign, Credit Suisse remains one of the world's biggest investors in exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, financing fracking and multinationals responsible for deforestation in the Amazon.
Thursday's appeal court decision comes during a week of climate action in Switzerland.
Earlier this week, hundreds of demonstrators occupied a square in front of the national parliament in Bern for two days to demand stronger measures against climate change.