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Swiss should cease travel to Libya, says ministry

23 July 2008

GENEVA – Libya has been taking "worrying retaliatory measures" against Switzerland since the arrest of the youngest son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for allegedly beating two of his servants, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

It said Swiss citizens should cease travel to the country immediately.

Libya has recalled some of its diplomats in Switzerland, suspended the issuing of visas for Swiss citizens, cut down flights to Switzerland and has been detaining two Swiss nationals on various charges, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Swiss companies in Libya have received orders to close, and some company offices have been sealed," it added.

Swiss International Air Lines said Libya has restricted its flights to a single flight per week following the arrest of Hannibal Gadhafi.

Airline spokesman Jean-Claude Donzel confirmed a report in the dailies Le Matin and Tribune de Geneve that the Libyan authorities had said the reduction from three flights a week between Zurich and Tripoli was for technical operational reasons.

Libya also announced a similar cut in the flights of the Libyan airline Afriqiyah to Geneva, the Geneva airport disclosed.

The notice from Libya was "very surprising and on short notice," Donzel said, adding that he was unaware if any other countries’ airlines were affected.

"Swiss hopes to return to normal as soon as possible," he said, adding that for the moment the flight would be on Sunday.

On Monday the Swiss Foreign Ministry revised its travel notice for Libya, advising Swiss passport holders that Libyan authorities were carefully examining visas and residence permits and that they should expect administrative or criminal penalties for the "slightest irregularities".

Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife were taken into police custody last week after an incident at a luxury hotel in Geneva, according to their lawyer. They were released on bail two days later and left the country.

The daily Tribune de Geneve reported that two of Gadhafi’s domestic servants claimed Gadhafi and his wife repeatedly beat them at the hotel with a belt and a hanger. It said a Tunisian woman was hospitalised.

Lawyer Alain Berger said Gadhafi and his wife reject the allegations.

The 32-year-old Gadhafi has had previous run-ins with the law for violent behaviour in Paris.

Switzerland has dispatched a diplomatic delegation to Tripoli to give the Libyan authorities more details on the arrest of Gadhafi and "to prevent a crisis between the two countries," the Foreign Ministry said.

It said that under the Swiss constitution the criminal proceedings against Gadhafi were the sole responsibility of the judicial authorities of the canton (state) of Geneva.

[AP / Expatica]