Switzerland accuses Libya of kidnapping

23rd October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Thursday accused Libya of "kidnapping" two Swiss businessmen.

Geneva -- Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey on Thursday accused Libya of "kidnapping" two Swiss businessmen who have been prevented from leaving Tripoli for a year in a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

The two went missing in September after they left the Swiss embassy to undergo a medical check-up at the request of Libyan authorities, and Tripoli said they were being held in a "safe location."

Switzerland "has not received any proof of life after the two Swiss (citizens) were kidnapped by Libyan authorities and hidden in an unknown location, in flagrant violation" of consular rules, Calmy-Rey told journalists.

The government had "protested very strongly against the abduction," she added.

The Swiss government said after a cabinet meeting that Tripoli repeatedly failed to honour pledges made in recent weeks to try to solve the 14-month dispute, despite a high-profile apology by President Hans-Rudolf Merz.

The spat erupted in July 2008 after police in Geneva arrested one of the sons of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, Hannibal, and his wife in a luxury hotel over allegations that the couple mistreated two servants.

Swiss police detained the Kadhafis for two days, sparking outrage from Libyan authorities and several retaliatory measures against Switzerland although the charges were dropped.

The Swiss businessmen in Tripoli, who have not been named, were also prevented from leaving the country in 2008 after they were accused of immigration offences.

Merz flew to Tripoli in August and apologised to the Libyan people over the Geneva incident.

His controversial apology was presented in exchange for the swift return of the two businessmen, along with an agreement with the Libyan government to normalise relations within 60 days.

Despite subsequent reassurances, Tripoli had shown "no intention to want to normalise bilateral relations with Switzerland" and "systematically refused" to cooperate, Calmy-Rey said Thursday.

Merz said the Swiss government was "disappointed that Libya has not so far held to these agreements and pledges."

Libyan sanctions over the past year included disruption to oil deliveries, a freeze on Swiss businesses, and the withdrawal of an estimated USD 5 billion (CHF 5 billion) in Libyan assets from Swiss banks.

Swiss authorities said in September that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi assured Merz on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York that he would allow the two men to return home.

The Swiss government, which has come under heavy domestic pressure since the controversial apology, indicated Thursday that it could change its strategy.

However ministers declined to reveal what options they were considering.

Relatives of the businessmen held in Libya also started to break their silence this week.

"I haven't had any news from my husband for four weeks now. I have no way of getting touch with him, I don't know at all where he is," said the wife of one of the men, a 69-year-old.

"He may be dead, he may have been assassinated, tortured; just as he could be well treated, I haven't the faintest idea. On top of that I'm very worried about his health," she told Swiss television TSR.

"In the name of what lost honour can you do that?" added the woman, who identified only as Bruna H.

AFP / Expatica

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