Swiss man held in Libya leaves for home after governments reach deal to end 2-year dispute

By Khaled Al-deeb, AP
Sunday, June 13, 2010

Swiss man leaves Libya as 2 nations end dispute

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya said Sunday that Switzerland has paid $1.5 million for mistreating Moammar Gadhafi’s son during his arrest there in 2008, and a Swiss citizen who had been held in Tripoli left for home as the countries ended a two-year diplomatic row.

The two nations struck a deal to end a dispute that began with the two-day detention of Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife for allegedly beating their maid in a Swiss hotel.

Libya’s protests of their arrests quickly escalated, and in February Moammar Gadhafi even called on Muslims to wage jihad, or holy war, against Switzerland.

Amid the row, Libya arrested two Swiss businessmen and tried them on charges of violating residency laws and operating a business illegally.

One of the men, Rachid Hamdani, was acquitted and allowed to leave Libya in February. The other, Max Goeldi, was expected to return to Switzerland Sunday, said Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey at a news conference in Tripoli after the signing of the agreement.

“The time has come to put an end to our two-year-old dispute and start naturalizing relations, because this is the desire of the two countries,” Calmy-Rey said.

Goeldi’s lawyer, Saleh al-Zahif, confirmed his client had left Libya on a plane Sunday night. Al-Zahif said Goeldi’s flight was not direct to Switzerland but declined to provide further details.

Amnesty International has said Goeldi’s prosecution was politically motivated.

During the dispute, Libya suspended visas for Swiss citizens, withdrew funds from Swiss banks, stopped oil shipments and reduced flights to Switzerland.

Last month, Gadhafi said Switzerland was behaving like a criminal organization and was involved in money laundering, assassinations and terrorism.

Switzerland, in return, tried to exert pressure on Tripoli by banning high-ranking Libyan officials from obtaining visas to visit Europe, but it was forced to back down by Italy and other European countries with strong economic ties to the North African nation.

Under the agreement, Switzerland apologized for the “unlawful publication” of photographs of Hannibal Gadhafi. It said it would open a criminal investigation to find those responsible and pay compensation if they were not found.

For its part, Libya agreed to expedite the request for Goeldi to receive a judicial pardon.

Though it was not included in the written agreement, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said Switzerland paid Hannibal Gadhafi $1.5 million in compensation for mistreatment during his arrest.

Both parties agreed to the establishment of an “arbitration tribunal” in Germany, according to a copy of the deal. Representatives of the German and Spanish governments also signed the agreement.

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