A Swiss magazine has defended the image of a Roma boy waving a toy gun used to illustrate a recent cover story in which it claimed Gypsy gangs are coming to Switzerland to commit crimes.

Zurich weekly Weltwoche says harsh criticism and lawsuits filed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are unjustified.

Roma groups and anti-racism campaigners have accused the magazine of whipping up racial prejudices against one of the poorest ethnic minorities in Europe.

Weltwoche said Thursday that its article last week was intended to highlight the use of children to commit burglaries and street thefts.

The cover picture was originally taken in Kosovo in 2008 by Italian photographer Livio Mancini who photographed children playing on a garbage dump.