Freed Swiss leaves Libya after 'action plan' signed

13th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Swiss businessman Max Goeldi was headed home Sunday after four months holed up in a Libyan jail and nearly two years stuck in the country as the two states struck a deal to end a bitter diplomatic row.

"Max Goeldi has just left Libya on the way to Switzerland," his lawyer Salah Zahaf told AFP, adding his client would make a stopover on the way. He did not give the route but a Tunis flight was scheduled at the time of his departure.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, after meeting officials in the Libyan capital, said before Goeldi flew out that the development was "a relief to him and to us."

She said Tripoli and Bern had signed an "action plan" to resolve a row which had seen Goeldi stuck in Libya since the spat broke out in July 2008.

The plan, which was also signed by mediators Germany and Spain, aims to solve "bilateral problems expeditiously and in a constructive spirit," Calmy-Rey said.

"This is the beginning of a normalisation process. 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."

The Swiss foreign minister had arrived in Libya late on Saturday with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos on a mission to repatriate Goeldi, who was freed on Thursday after four months in jail 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.

The businessman has been at the centre of a diplomatic spat sparked off by the brief arrest in Geneva in July 2008 of a son of Kadhafi.

Goeldi was detained in Tripoli in 2008, along with another Swiss businessman Rashid Hamdani, after Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife were held by Swiss police when two of their domestic staff charged they had been mistreated by the couple at a Geneva hotel.

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

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 it 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 that were 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, while demanding that those responsible for Hannibal's arrest face trial.

© 2010 AFP

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