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10th April 2019, 12:06:35 UTC

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

“By targeting Pastor Valley and criminalizing acts of compassion the authorities have demonstrated the extreme lengths to which they are prepared to go in order to curb the humanitarian activities of those who want to help refugees and asylum-seekers,” said Julie Jeannet, 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 celebrated for it rather than fined.”
Pastor Valley was questioned by police in February 2018 after 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 and Integration Law, with ‘the facilitation of the illegal stay of a citizen from Togo, through the provision of shelter and money’. If indicted, Pastor Valley would have to face a criminal trial.

“Sadly, Pastor Valley’s case is not an isolated one but merely 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 Julie Jeannet.

“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 and the group Saint François, will be outside the public ministry in Neuchâtel on 11 April to show solidarity with Pastor Valley.