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European court rejects case against Switzerland over Arab sheikh

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a complaint against Switzerland for acquitting the brother of the leader of the United Arab Emirates in an assault case, the plaintiff said Thursday.

The court’s press service confirmed that the case, brought by Italian-American Silvano Orsi, was ruled inadmissible.

Orsi had charged in his complaint that Switzerland had in effect granted immunity to Sheikh Falah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, after he was acquitted on appeal of assaulting Orsi in 2003.

A court in July 2008 found the sheikh guilty of hitting Orsi on the face and head with a steel belt buckle after he refused a bottle of champagne.

It handed down a fine of 540,000 Swiss francs (383,000 euros, 487,000 dollars) for inflicting bodily injuries.

However, the sheikh was acquitted on appeal.

The sheikh, a brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was appointed president of the UAE in 2004 after the death of their father, has maintained he is innocent.

The case dates back to August 19, 2003, when the sheikh was in Geneva accompanying his father on an official visit.

At the luxury La Reserve hotel in Geneva, the sheikh bought a bottle of champagne for Orsi, who refused the gift.

The sheikh’s lawyers said that the sheikh was offended as Orsi had thought that he was a homosexual.

Orsi said he was not surprised the court declined to hear the case given its overburdened docket.

Nevertheless, “this is a very pessimistic, sad and disappointing day, not for me, but for the criminal justice in Switzerland and for justice in Europe because rejecting to hear this affair means … that a man can be hit in the face with a belt,” he told AFP.