Thanks for asking, Mrs. Haller!
In early September 2003, Swiss politician Susanne Haller brought before the Basel city council a query about Scientologists setting up recruitment tents in downtown Basel.
Ms. Haller was instrumental several years ago in passing a law that forbid importunate advertising on public land. The Swiss politician has previously come under fire for showing that she does not want people to break the law, no matter what side they are on.
The episode started with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), which is the agency that has Scientology under observation in Germany. The OPC does not have the authority to make arrests, it only surveils. As has been noted in the Washington Post, "Spies tend to be expert liars who create an air of omnipotence and invincibility as survival tools.
Exposing them as mortals who waffle, change their minds and make mistaken judgments can threaten their very existence."
[The Washington Post, "007 on Trial", Jim Hoagland, September 7, 2003]
On April 6, 1998 a German OPC agent was arrested Basel, Switzerland, while investigating Scientology. In Switzerland, German OPC agent Peter Gobel carried identification papers that said he was Peter Goller. He met with two Swiss informants in a hotel restaurant in Basel. One of those informants was Susane Haller.
On April 9, 1998, Haller said on Swiss television, "I knew it from the first second that I would turn him in. And I wanted to turn him in. And I wanted him to be arrested. It is illegal for another country's Office of Constitutional Protection to come into Switzerland and search for data on Swiss women and men."
Haller told the German agent during the meeting that his inquiries were illegal in Switzerland. He reportedly replied that his boss would straighten the matter out with Bern to make the meeting retroactively legal. The woman who had invited Haller, Zurich resident Odette Jaccard, had prepared a list of 2,000 names for the German agent. From his side, Gobel/Goller handed over information on Scientology operations in Switzerland that had been collected anonymously, presumably for the sake of protecting his sources. This included a report on Swiss Scientology spokesman Jurg Stettler. The German agent also requested license plate numbers of visitors to the Scientology center.
Haller's unsuspecting partner, Jaccard, agreed. Before Jaccard could hand over her list however, Haller ended the meeting and told the German to leave.
Prior to these events, Haller had visited the Basel district attorney's office to tell them where she was going and what she would be doing. One week later the district attorney's office attested that Susanne Haller had handled everything legally and properly. Despite that, the Scientology critic would later find herself being accused, mainly from the German side of the border, of having betrayed Peter Gobel and Odette Jaccard.
The German OPC agent was arrested as he was getting into his car. As the press reported, several federal police overpowered him, put a bag over his head, and drove him to the police station, where he was strip searched. The German agent was detained in a holding cell for several days. It had become a federal case. He was suspected of having engaged in illicit activity on behalf of a foreign political intelligence service. It was considered political intelligence because Scientology had been in the political spotlight for years, as a Swiss spokesman later explained.
Both of the Swiss women were brought in by the federal police and questioned. Odette Jaccard still did not know that they had been turned in by the politician. The housewife used her visit to the federal attorney to talk about the ineffectiveness of the Swiss police in matters of Scientology.
She was released feeling optimistic about her situation.
The next day she found several police officers from the federal attorney's office with a search warrant at her front door. They seized her computer and a number of diskettes.
She still did not fully grasp that she might be facing charges of aiding a foreign political intelligence service.
By this time, Germany was already apologizing to Switzerland. A German government official from the city of Stuttgart, in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, apologized to an official in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, in protest against the transgression of Swiss sovereignty, the Swiss State Department requested the presence of the German ambassador. The German Ambassador expressed his sincere regret over the incident. That, however, was still not good enough. The authorities in Stuttgart had to post 25,000 Swiss franks bail and guarantee that their man would be available in the likely event that any court proceedings ensued. The OPC agent was finally released after three days, in time for Easter.
He was charged with spying and carrying false identification.
He had been following a lead from Stuttgart about Scientology connections between Germany and Switzerland.
He contacted Odette Jaccard, who contacted Haller the politician. The problem was the meeting had been held in Switzerland. If the German agent would have met with his two informants back in Germany, an international incident would not have occurred. Perhaps he felt reassured because he maintained a second residence in Switzerland himself.
In any case, the first one to go to trial in the press was the politician, Susanne Haller. In this respect, Swiss Scientologist Jurg Stettler was relatively informative and helpful.
Upon being contacted by the German press, Mr. Stettler appeared frank and sincere. He revealed that Susanne Haller had been in touch with him as far back as March. The reason for the contact, he said, was to arrange for a public discussion attended by himself, Mrs. Haller, and Mrs. Haller's good friend Ursula Caberta, the sect commissioner from Hamburg, Germany. Mrs. Haller made the suggestion, but a meeting never took place.
Stettler also revealed that Susanne Haller contacted him after the German agent was arrested. According to Stettler, first Haller said she had known nothing about the incident, but later on she said she had orchestrated the whole thing. The Swiss Scientologist reportedly stated, "In less than 24 hours, Susanne Haller completely changed her story."
Stettler said that although he had problems with how Mrs.
Haller viewed Scientology, she would still say on occasion that she wanted to "protect Scientologists." Finally, the spokesman declared that Scientology had absolutely nothing to do with the German agent's arrest, but confessed, "If we had been a part of the operation, I would have even been a little bit proud of it."
Besides suspicions associated with the contact between Haller and the Scientologist, there was a misunderstanding between Haller and Odette Jaccard, her fellow Swiss anti-Scientologist, which was repeatedly mentioned in the media. That was the question of why Haller had not simply warned Jaccard instead of helping to arrest the German.
Haller stated she was aware beforehand of potentially illegal activity by a foreign agent, but she was not aware of potentially illegal actitivity by her comrade until it was too late.
In addition, even if Haller suggested the meeting place, she still did not suggest any criminal activity to those who were later charged. She had merely been a good citizen and reported her suspicions to the police. As she emphasized, she had even stopped Jaccard from physically handing over papers to the German agent, thus thwarting a potentially criminal act. She did what she had to do.
Odette Jaccard, a housewife, was annoyed, first of all for being arrested and investigated, and secondly, she thought Haller's priorities were misplaced. To make things worse, Jaccard's attorney vainly alleged that Haller had been the one to turn the meeting into a criminal operation, and that she had planned to use the matter as a PR stunt to further her own career. The judge could dismiss the baseless charges, but by that time suspicions had already been vented, thus serving as fodder for vindicative speculation from those who disapproved of Haller's actions.
In May 1998, Haller defended herself in the press. She stated that the suspicions leveled against her had received tacit approval from the press. She also pointed out the public accusations of treasonous wrongdoing on her part was merely playing into Scientology's hands. She had done what she was required to do, not only as a citizen, but as a politician, as a model for others. She expressed sadness at what she called a campaign of instigation against her, and specifically mentioned the southern German press. (Stuttgart and Baden-Wurttemberg are in southwest Germany.) As she stated, "Scientology is a classic example of how people can be made dependent. Because of that, it must be addressed - legally. I will not consider using other methods."
Local officials recognized not only the situation between Haller and Jaccard, but that Scientology opponents in general had suffered a sense of loss in the area of public trust. The sentiment was expressed as "we will keep our distance from those obsessed with sect witch hunts."
On May 27 the Basel press reported that the federal government had concluded its investigation against the German OPC agent. The press also reported that the source of the rumor about Haller luring the German agent into Switzerland may have been the Germans who were trying to justify their OPC agent operating out of his jurisdiction.
The trial was set for July 1. The Scientologists had helped to add a charge against Odette Jaccard for violating the data security law. In June 1999 the trial was postponed. Jaccard was indisposed due to illness.
About a year after the incident, a bilateral police agreement between the Germans and the Swiss was signed in Bern. This was an important step in establishing legal cooperation between EU states and non-EU Switzerland. Part of the agreement included a temporary, limited assignment of undercover investigators in the two countries. This measure, as was noted, could have avoided the furor and the diplomatic incident of the previous year.
Finally the trial was held November 30, 1999. The government's principal witness was Susanne Haller. In their defense, the Germans from Baden-Wurttemberg said Haller had lured the OPC agent into a trap, that she was the one who urged that the meeting, which lasted two hours, occur in Basel. The reason for the Basel location came out in court as follows: The German had wanted to pick the women up in Basel and drive them to Germany, but the politician did not have the time. Even though Haller had influenced the meeting place, she had not instigated the criminal conduct. The accused were found guilty. The German OPC agent got 30 days suspended and Odette Jaccard 10 days suspended.
Although Susanne Haller was not officially accused of anything, the local press did not find her entirely innocent, and mockingly referred to her as "protector of the state".
Apparently Jaccard and sympathizers, such as German author Renate Hartwig, had expected something different of the politician. Regardless, Haller still went on to introduce legislation to hamper the obtrusive recruitment methods of Scientology and similar organizations.
Odette Jaccard continued to confront Scientology with her informational work, but without the help of the Swiss general attorney's office. She had previously been sued by Scientology, but to no avail. She had started warning people of the psychic dependency cultivated by sects full time back in 1991. Actually it was only half her free time, as she responded once to a question of how did she avoided turning into a fanatic herself. She admitted, however, to being a computer freak, when she was not tending to her family. As a matter of fact, she obtained much of her information from the Internet. For her activity in this regard, she was nominated for the Prix Courage. On September 23, 2000 she accepted the award for her civil courage and her informational work. She accepted the honor in a wheelchair. Odette Jaccard passed away on September 26, 2000.
Susanne Haller's legislation to impede importunate recruitment on public land was passed and, of course, challenged by Scientology, as were similar laws passed in other Swiss cities. The legal concept went to the highest Swiss court, which ruled that Scientology may advertise and recruit, but not in a manner that puts any other commercial business at a disadvantage. For all intents and purposes, that decision categorized Scientology as a business, regardless of whether it said it was religion or not.
Councilwoman Haller received a response to her query about the Scientology tents in downtown Basel. The Scientologists were exercising their freedom to assemble, their freedom of speech, and had not engaged in code violations, according to the city official who had already made several unannounced visits to the site.
Mrs. Haller, thanks for asking.
Joe Cisar http://cisar.org
The Press and Public Relations Policies of Layfayette Ronald Hubbard
To all those on ARS who say that the wolf will alway come to the door wearing the same disguise, I say go read some history ... Bob Minton