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Seven in Swiss trial over protest against quarry expansion

GENEVA (AP) – Seven activists went on trial in Switzerland yesterday over charges including alleged trespassing and resisting arrest, over their roles in a campsite protest against the expansion of a limestone quarry in rolling Swiss countryside.

The defendants, who are being tried separately in rapid-succession hearings this week, are the first among some 40 people who are facing court action over the show of civil disobedience at Mormont hill, the site of a quarry owned by Swiss-French construction materials company Lafarge Holcim located about 25 kilometres north of Lausanne.

The legal showdown is the latest case in Switzerland pitting environmental campaigners against big business.

Holcim, the Swiss company, has argued that the site is important to help reduce reliance on other countries’ resources for its production of building materials.

Protesters against plans to expand the quarry had set up a makeshift campsite and squatted an abandoned house in the area before more than 100 police in riot gear, firing tear gas and rubber bullets, on March 30 expelled about 200 activists, according to Swiss media reported at the time.

Yesterday, dozens of activists turned out outside the courtroom in the lakeside town of Nyon with banners or seated on the ground to support the defendants, who face up to six months in prison.

The trial is expected to run thorough tomorrow.

Holcim, which extracts stone used to make cement near the site, dropped the charges initially filed for trespassing, but public prosecutors have pursued the case.