GENEVA - On his Facebook page, there is some troubling material about the Holocaust and a Jewish holiday. On his Internet site: an ad for a camp for “all those who want to learn, or perfect their knowledge of, insurrection techniques” taught by “Swiss army militia officers.”
After keeping a low profile for several years, Claude Covassi is back in the news again.
The 42-year-old Geneva man made headlines in 2006 and 2007 when he turned against the Swiss federal intelligence service for which he had worked as an agent since 2004. Covassi had infiltrated the Islamic Center of Geneva (CIG) to determine if it had links to radical Islamist groups -- but two years later, by now a convert to Islam, he accused the secret service of having used him illegally to compromise the Center’s director, Hani Ramadan.
In May 2007, a federal parliamentary commission, tasked with investigating the accusations, reported that Covassi’s charges were unfounded. Since then, he had pretty much disappeared off the radar.
Then on Oct. 6, using the name Clovis Casadue, he reappeared on Facebook where he posted a flyer he had found, inviting locals to a public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Dec. 7 on Geneva’s Place du Molard. A comment by Claude Covassi reads: “And then who else?” Another user, responding to Covassi’s later comment of “could end abruptly!” wrote: “I feel like lighting more than a candle!” to which Covassi replied: “Everything in good time!”
There was another posting on Oct. 31: Claude Covassi relayed a debate launched on a computer games website, entitled: “The Holocaust: do you believe – or not?” This brought several comments including one from Covassi himself: “It’s a subject that provokes hysteria on both sides of the issue.”
The postings came to the attention of Swiss group Intercommunity Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation (CICAD) whose Secretary General Johanne Gurfinkiel said: “With regard to the Holocaust, it’s the unending anti-Semitic tack – trying to re-introduce the issue of the Holocaust, as if there could still be a debate. As for the messages about Hanukkah, we find the information worrisome.” There was a clear “call to violence,” Gurfinkiel said, adding that the police or public prosecutor should take “measures against persons who make these kinds of threats.”
Asked about the comments, Covassi played them down: “People say a lot of stupid things on Facebook, it’s not serious! It wasn’t very smart, for sure, but I was upset. You can’t invite the people of Geneva to celebrate Hanukkah! But it was not my intention to hurt the Jewish community and if that’s the case then I’m sorry.”
Conspiracy nuts, Holocaust deniers and survivalists
Calling himself an “anti-globalist,” and a friend of anti-Zionist essayist Alain Soral and French conspiracy journalist Thierry Meyssan – with whom he traveled to Iran in 2011 –Covassi said: “I am particularly drawn to the Palestinian cause. But the Jewish question, or Israel, are not obsessions of mine. Personally, I do not believe that the existence of the state of Israel accords with international law. But it does exist, and I in no way wish for its disappearance.”
As for the Holocaust debate, Covassi says he “was surprised to see what young people think. Banning all debate on this issue is a bad thing. All it does is lend mystique to deniers instead of discrediting them.”
Is that why, on his own website Mecanopolis.org, he paid homage to philosopher and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy after his death last June? “He is first and foremost a Communist philosopher... The Holocaust is proven historical fact and in that sense beyond discussion.”
On Nov. 12, on the same website created by Covassi, an ad calling for users to sign up for “Camp 2013” caused a stir. This was the ad claiming that Swiss army officers would teach attendees how to conduct a “war of insurrection.”
Could the camp be described as a paramilitary venue for war nuts? “Of course not,” Covassi replied. “It’s an experiment to see if it attracts survivalists [who believe in readiness training for a possible catastrophe or major war.]”
If the idea were to prove successful, Covassi says he could see the camp leading to other activities, such as “mountain trips where people could do sports and learn how to shoot. I’ve already been in touch with the vice-president of the young members of the UDC party [right-wing, populist Swiss People’s Party], Xavier Schwitzguébel, and we’ve discussed the idea a few times.”
About the camp, Covassi adds that, “It was never a question of me teaching what I learned in the army… The idea interested me because I find survivalist groups dangerous. Going on mountain hikes or orientation courses with them would have interested me so I could see how such groups are organized.”
Contacted on Sunday to determine if they were aware of “Camp 2013” possibly taking place, a federal secret service spokesperson said that they were not presently able to address questions on the subject.