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Pipe bomb dummy at the Street Parade

The alleged perpetrator has a criminal record, but there is no evidence of an extremist attitude.

A German has deposited a deceptively real-looking bomb dummy in a backpack on Zurich’s Street Parade. The public prosecutor’s office is investigating the case on the grounds that it frightens the population. What drives people to such an act?

Suddenly the police were in a state of alarm. Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, a caller had reported that an orange backpack had been lying on Zurich’s Utoquai for some time. A horror scenario for the emergency forces, because only a few meters away, thousands and thousands of ravers were dancing the Street Parade.

The police quickly sealed off the area. With the help of a defusing robot, specialists examined the contents of the backpack. According to Daniel Kloiber, the prosecutor in charge, they found cables, mobile phones, metal parts and bottles probably filled with accelerants. Therefore, the backpack was transported in a special container to a safe place where it was examined more closely.

Explosives were missing

It was not until Monday morning that the authorities were able to give the all-clear. The results of the investigation by the Forensic Institute showed that these were dummies of pipe bombs. Explosives and ignition devices were missing in the rucksack.

Investigators were also able to find the perpetrator: The backpack belongs to a 31-year-old German. Police arrested him on Sunday evening at his place of residence in the canton of Aargau. According to the Zurich senior public prosecutor’s office, the man is being investigated for horror to the population.

The suspect is in custody. It remains to be seen whether he will be remanded in custody. The German has not yet been questioned by the public prosecutor’s office. The arrested man is known to the police, however. The previous convictions are not related to threats or violent crimes, says Kloiber.

The pipe bomb dummy could cost the perpetrators dearly: He could face up to three years imprisonment or a fine. In addition, if convicted, he could also be charged part of the cost of the police operation.

A 35-year-old Swiss citizen who was arrested in this context on Saturday evening has been released. He is no longer under suspicion.

Completely different motives

Article 258 of the Penal Code – Dread of the Population – applies to threats or simulations of danger to life, limb or property. In recent years, the number of convictions for this offence has remained stable: 21 in 2018, 18 in the previous year and 20 in 2016 according to the Federal Statistical Office.

But what drives people to such an act? In the case of the 31-year-old German, the motive is still unclear. So far, the cantonal police have only indicated that there is no ideological background to the crime. So far there is no evidence that the alleged perpetrator had connections to extremist political or religious groups.

Other cases in which the population was appalled show how different the motives can be.

In November 2016, for example, a 24-year-old Czech called the casino in Baden and threatened to detonate a bomb. The building was then cleared and sealed off. When the police arrested the Czechs less than a year later, he stated in his confession that he had threatened an attack because of conflicts in his partnership.

In another case, in April 2015, a teenager and his girlfriend left a suitcase with wires at the Basel Theatre. The couple followed the subsequent police operation of several hours on the spot. To enjoy the spectacle? In any case, the teenager posted several articles on the bomb threat on his Twitter account and speculated about the perpetrators.

But some perpetrators also threaten because they are mentally ill. How the Eastern Swiss, who entered the Café Fédéral near Bern’s Bundesplatz in the summer of 2017, pulled out a gun, fidgeted with it and screamed. Then he threw a rucksack to the ground, said there was a bomb in it, and ran outside.

In court, the 40-year-old Swiss from Eastern Switzerland asserted that he was not dangerous, according to the “Berner Zeitung”. “There was only a little restlessness. It was a one-off action to make his accusation against the state heard. But the man suffered from a personality disorder according to the expert opinion. He also expressed doubts about his condition by saying that he was working on a manifesto to prove that the government had developed a system to manipulate referendums.

The court finally found him guilty only of attempted horror to the population. This was because only a few of the guests present had even heard of his threat.