German graffiti artist's 'freedom of art' case comes a step closer to resolution

The ''sprayer of Zurich,'' Europe's best-known graffiti artist, has lost an appeal to West Germany's highest court against a demand for his extradition to serve a jail sentence in Switzerland for defacing private property with his spray gun.

The minister of justice of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, where Harald Nageli was arrested at the request of Switzerland last August, must now decide whether to honor the Swiss demand for his extradition.

''Sprayer'' Nageli, meanwhile, is free on 40,000 marks (about $15,500) bail and working, between twice-weekly visits to the police station in Dusseldorf, where he has been living since he tried to flee Swiss jurisdiction.

One of his jobs since he got out on bail was to spraypaint one of his typical stick figures - this one with several eyes - on a wall in the main lobby of the national headquarters in Bonn of the opposition Social Democratic Party.

The first edition of a book filled with photographs of similar graffiti Mr. Nageli sprayed around Cologne before his arrest has sold out.

Perhaps because he is working so regularly, Mr. Nageli has offered to pay the 101,634 Swiss francs ($46,794) fine assessed against him by a Zurich court for defacing hundreds of walls in that city.

But the Zurich court insists he must also serve a nine-month jail sentence.

Nageli appealed to the West German constitutional court, claiming protection under Article V of Bonn's basic law, which declares that ''art . . . shall be free.''

But the high court said that Article XIV of the basic law declares that ''property . . . is guaranteed,'' and that neither West German nor Swiss law permits art to develop by damaging the property of others.

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