Bush visit to Switzerland cancelled over security fears

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The Independent US

A visit to Switzerland by the former US president George W Bush planned for this week has been cancelled due to security concerns after left-wing groups called for mass protests and rights activists proposed legal action against him for allegedly ordering the torture of terrorism suspects.

Mr Bush's spokesman, David Sherzer, said the former president was informed by the United Israel Appeal that his speech on Saturday in Geneva had been called off. Yesterday's edition of the Swiss daily Tribune de Genève quoted the Jewish charity's lawyer, Robert Equey, as saying: "The calls to demonstrate were sliding into dangerous terrain. The organisers claimed to be able to maintain order, but warned they could not be held responsible for any outbursts."

Protest organisers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson – named after another US president, Woodrow Wilson – where the dinner was to be held. The shoes were to recall the time an Iraqi journalist threw his own footwear at Mr Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008.

Mr Equey told the Tribune that attempts by human-rights groups to submit legal complaints against Mr Bush to Swiss prosecutors had not played a part in the decision to cancel the visit.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights had planned to ask Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal investigation against Mr Bush over the admission that he authorised the waterboarding of terrorism suspects.

"Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case," the Center for Constitutional Rights, and others, said in a statement.