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Swiss President condemns leaks on Libya rescue

Switzerland’s President Doris Leuthard on Monday condemned leaks to the media over plans to smuggle two Swiss nationals out of Libya, where they were detained.

“Unfortunately, in the last week, due to indiscretion in various media, reports about planned action to free the two Swiss hostages ended up being made public,” Leuthard said.

“The Federal Council strongly condemns such indiscretion, which fall under the criminal code,” she said, stressing that the information was of “utmost secrecy.”

The Tribune de Geneve daily reported Saturday that Switzerland considered plans to smuggle Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani, who had been blocked from leaving Libya, out of the country with the help of the Swiss army.

The two businessmen were blocked from leaving Libya 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, when they were returned to the embassy.

Hamdani was allowed to leave Libya in February, while Goeldi was sentenced to jail for visa offences and only released this month.

In an interview published Friday, Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Switzerland was checking if it could launch proceedings in an international body against Libya over the “kidnapping” of the two Swiss citizens.

On Friday, a local populist party, the Geneva Citizens’ Movement, said it filed a complaint with Swiss prosecutors against Kadhafi for “kidnapping”.

Experts said these actions would not help Bern and Tripoli normalise their relations.

Hasni Abidi, who heads the Geneva-based Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World, said they give Tripoli the impression that “the Swiss are not sincere, that they do not want a normalisation of relations.”

Andrea Bianchi, international law professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, noted that Switzerland “must choose if it wants to go towards a stabilisation of relations” or if it wants to engage in a “perspective of confrontation.”