Camenisch was born on January 21, 1952 in Campocologno, Switzerland and raised in a middle-class home in canton Graubünden. He dropped out of high school because he felt the teachings were elitist. During his apprenticeship as a farmer at the Plantahof school, he opposed the use of chemical fertilizers in farming. Marco became a mountaineer but soon started to believe that his political aims could not be achieved unless he became more direct in his activism.
In the late 1970s, Camenisch was involved in local opposition against the nuclear power industry. In Switzerland, as in other countries too, the movement against nuclear power plants utilized tactics of direct action: cutting down electrical pylons, sabotage against power stations, and actions against leaders of the nuclear industry.
In January 1980, Camenisch and other activists were arrested for sabotaging a pylon and a power station of NOK (Nordostschweizer Kraftwerke = "Northeast Swiss Power Stations") at Bad Ragaz. After spending a year free on bail, the court of Canton in Chur and Graubünden sentenced Camenisch to 10 years in prison. A co-defendant was sentenced to 7.5 years. At the trial Camenisch refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court or cooperate with its procedures. In court he read a statement in which he connected direct actions as a protest against the environmental degradation caused by energy industry and with the struggle against the capitalist social order.
In December 1981, he escaped from Regensdorf prison near Zürich, along with 5 other prisoners. During the melée a prison guard was shot and killed, and another was seriously injured. Camenisch claimed he hadn't been part of the group which committed the shootings. After the escape he spent 10 years living in hiding.
In 1989, Swiss federal police and media claimed he was responsible for the killing of Swiss border police officer Kurt Moser at Brusio. A witness of the murder claimed to recognising Camenisch and the Blick printed his photograph. The witness later retracted, saying he had only overheard the shots. Supporters of Camenisch spawned doubt regarding his guilt, turning him into a "martyr of the State". Camenisch returned into hiding for two years.
Arrest in Italy
Since his escape he spent his life in and out between Turin, Sondrio and Carrara. He spent several years in the mountains of Carrara and in the Cooperativa Tipolitografica, the main anarchist printing shop at the time. He never revealed his identity until the day he was caught.
On November 5 1991, Camenisch was stopped by Carabinieri on Cinquale di Montignoso road, along with fellow anarchist Giancarlo Sergianpietri. Camenisch produced a handgun and opened fire, wounding one of the soldiers. In the ensuing shootout, he was wounded at one leg and arrested. Two guns and six rudimentary bombs were found at his place. He was taken to Pisa hospital, where he remained for 6 months, and later at San Vittore prison infirmary in Milano. The Italian Court of Massa Carrara sentenced him to 12 years for assault and sabotage of electrical pylons. He served 9 of those years while in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison.
Extradition to Switzerland
In April 2002, Camenisch was extradited to Switzerland and transferred to a prison in Pfäffikon near Zürich. In January 2003, after a hunger strike against the conditions of imprisonment he was suffering, he was transferred to a prison in Chur with better conditions. Recently the Swiss government transferred him back to Pfäffikon. In July 2004 he was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the murder of Kurt Moser.
However, in November 2006 the Federal Supreme Court nullified this sentence on the basis that the sum of the two prison terms would exceed the maximum of 20 years set by Swiss law. On 13 March the sentence was therefore reduced to eight years.
Camenisch has maintained his political beliefs during his time in prison, and he has remained a political activist.