Swiss 'planned to smuggle detained businessmen out of Libya'

19th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland hatched at least four plans to smuggle two of its citizens prevented from leaving Libya out of the country, a newspaper reported Saturday.

"Several sources confirm that the Swiss authorities went further than just thinking about it, issuing military orders at least twice," the daily Tribune de Geneve said, without being more precise on its sources.

Businessmen Rachid Hamdani and Max Goeldi were blocked from leaving Libyan territory in a tit-for-tat action after the brief arrest in Switzerland of one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's sons in July 2008.

In September 2009, they were taken from the Swiss embassy, where they were staying, by Libyan officials to a secret location where they were held until November.

They were later returned to the embassy, and Hamdani was allowed to leave the country in February, while Goeldi was sentenced to jail for visa offences.

Goeldi was only released last weekend and returned to Switzerland on Monday.

The Tribune said that in 2008 Switzerland originally planned to smuggle them from the embassy aboard the ambassador's plane and fly them out of Libya.

Another idea in December 2008 was to take them across the Algerian border, but the Tribune said the plan was dropped after Algiers demanded the return of Algerian dissidents living in Switzerland as its price for cooperating.

The other plans were to take the businessmen south overland to Niger, or by sea with a submarine from the Libyan coast, the paper said.

The Swiss foreign ministry refused to comment on the report Saturday.

The paper quoted Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey as saying that "in a crisis, nothing can be ruled out," without confirming or denying the information.

In an interview published Friday Calmy-Rey said Switzerland was seeing if it could launch proceedings in an international body against Libya over the "kidnapping" of the two Swiss citizens.

"After all, they were isolated for almost eight weeks," she told 20 minuten.

She added that Switzerland would also put the point to a tribunal that would be established according to an action plan signed between the two countries aimed at resolving their dispute and normalising relations.

Christophe Blocher, leader of the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP), Switzerland's biggest party, told the Tribune it was considering pressing Bern to raise "Libya's hostage taking" in the UN Security Council and break off diplomatic relations with Tripoli.

On Friday a local populist party, the Geneva Citizens' Movement, filed a complaint with Swiss prosecutors against Kadhafi for "kidnapping" the two men.

Kadhafi's son Hannibal and his pregnant wife were held by Swiss police after two of their domestic staff claimed they had been mistreated by the couple at a Geneva hotel.

The two servants were subsequently compensated by the couple and later dropped their assault charges.

© 2010 AFP

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