ZURICH - His supporters see him as a David standing up to the Goliath of the Swiss banking industry, a whistleblower who was snubbed by local media and forced instead to turn to WikiLeaks.
The most impassioned of his backers will be on hand this week as the appeal opens for Rudolf Elmer, the former employee of Julius Baer, a private Swiss Bank, convicted of violating banking confidentiality and coercion.
Elmer was found guilty of turning over confidential bank documents in an attempt to show that Julius Baer had a policy of helping wealthy clients avoid taxes. The defendant is hoping to have his sentence reduced to 240 days, and his fine suspended (meaning that it goes on his record but does not have to be paid).
A crowd of left-wing protesters and several foreign journalists have traveled to Zurich to attend the trial. Elmer was fired from by Julius Baer in 2002 after working for the Swiss bank for over 20 years in the Caiman Islands. He photocopied thousands of his ex-employers documents, which he then tried to pass on to the Swiss media, as proof of the banks practices in the tax haven.
When the Swiss media collectively passed on the documents, he turned to WikiLeaks as a last resort. Summaries of the documents were posted on Wikileaks in 2008, and Julius Baer promptly filed a complaint against Elmer after having tried, in vain, to block access to the WikiLeaks website.
Although he never tried to hide his identity, Elmers name was barely mentioned until Jan. 17, 2011, two days before his first trial began. On that day, he appeared with Julian Assange at the Frontline Club in London, and matter-of-factly handed the founder of WikiLeaks a CD said to contain information about 2,000 accounts of clients suspected of tax fraud.
It may have been a spectacular, media operation, but it also got him arrested just two hours after his first trial was over. He spent six months in provisional detention before being released this past summer. Though it is not clear what the ex-banker actually gave Assange, the current appeal relates to the original batch of leaked material.
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photo - EuroNews