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Home News Swiss businessman back home after Libya ordeal

Swiss businessman back home after Libya ordeal

Published on 14/06/2010

Max Goeldi, the Swiss businessman held in Libya since July 2008 flew back home to Switzerland early Monday, as the two countries agreed a plan to settle their long-running dispute.

Goeldi, who was accompanied by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, landed at Zurich airport at 1:20 am (2323 GMT) and was greeted by members of his family.

He waved briefly to journalists but made no statement.

It was the end of a lengthy ordeal for Goeldi, who was forced to stay in Libya for two years, including four months in a Libyan jail, until the two countries struck a deal this weekend to end a bitter diplomatic row.

The dispute erupted after Swiss police detained one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s sons.

Calmy-Rey, after meeting officials in the Libyan capital Sunday, said Tripoli and Bern had signed an “action plan” to resolve their dispute.

“This is the beginning of a normalisation process,” she said.

“I am confident that Swiss-Libyan relations will find their traditional course. This is the desire of Switzerland and I am sure of Libya as well.”

Goeldi was detained in Tripoli, along with another Swiss businessman Rashid Hamdani, after Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife were held by Swiss police.

The Swiss police acted after two of the Kadhafis’ domestic staff accused the couple of having mistreated them at a Geneva hotel.

Diplomatic ties further deteriorated when a Swiss newspaper published leaked police mugshots of Hannibal in September 2008, pictures taken at the time of his arrest.

Calmy-Rey had arrived in Libya late Saturday with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos on a mission to repatriate Goeldi, who was freed from jail on Thursday after serving time for visa offences.

Spain, which holds the current presidency of the European Union, has along with Germany been mediating between Libya and Switzerland.

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, also flew in to Tripoli and met Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in a tent set up outside his residence, in a joint encounter with the European foreign ministers, an Italian source said.

The Swiss-Libya accord was signed after Calmy-Rey and Moratinos met Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa. Mediators Germany and Spain also signed the document.

Under the action plan, “Switzerland expresses its apology for the unlawful publication of the photographs of Mr Hannibal Kadhafi,” in Geneva on September 4, 2009, “which constitutes a breach of confidentiality under Swiss law.”

Calmy-Rey said the Swiss authorities were committed to bringing the offenders to justice.

At the signing of the accord, Libya’s foreign minister announced that Hannibal had been awarded 1.5 million euros (1.8 million dollars) in compensation by Geneva canton over the publication of the police mugshots.

In April, a Swiss court ruled in favour of Hannibal in a case against the canton and local newspaper Tribune de Geneve over the publication of the two photos, but refused to award damages.

One of the two Swiss businessmen, Hamdani, was allowed to return home in February, and the following month Libya and the European Union lifted travel bans imposed in the wake of the row.

Following Hannibal’s arrest, Tripoli halted oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrew its funds from Swiss banks and expelled Swiss firms doing business in Libya.

It also called for those responsible for Hannibal’s arrest to face trial.