Swiss vote to ban swastika in crackdown on extremist symbols

The Swiss Parliament Building (Bundeshaus) is pictured in in Bern

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's parliament on Wednesday approved a motion to ban the Nazis' swastika emblem as part of a crackdown on extremist symbols in the neutral country.

The lower house of parliament voted to prohibit one of the most infamous symbols of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist regime following concerns about rising antisemitism.

The number of antisemitic incidents in Switzerland has leapt since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel and the Israeli government's subsequent response against the Islamist group in Gaza, according to a report last month.

"Racially discriminatory, violent, extremist and especially National Socialist symbols have no place in our society and should not be used in public," Justice Minister Beat Jans told parliament.

The legal commission of the lower house recommended a speedy implementation of the ban, which has already been approved by the Swiss upper house.

The cabinet must now draft legislation that makes it illegal to wear, publicly display or spread racist, violent or extremist symbols. The ban would extend to propaganda materials, gestures, slogans and flags.

The draft legislation would then require final approval by both houses of parliament.

"Today in Switzerland, it's possible, it's even permitted, to display a flag with a swastika on your balcony. It's possible to put a flag bearing the image of the SS on the windshield of your car," said Greens lawmaker Raphael Mahaim.

"This situation is intolerable."

Under current Swiss law, displaying symbols is only illegal if they promote a racist ideology.

Switzerland's neighbours Germany and Austria both passed laws after World War Two banning the Nazi party and spreading Nazi propaganda as well as various symbols of Hitler's Third Reich, including the stiff-arm salute.

Other countries including Australia have also recently banned public displays and sales of Nazi symbols.

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Gareth Jones)