Libya okays return of Swiss businessmen

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The Libyan government agrees to allow two Swiss businessmen held for more than a year to return home.

Tripoli -- The Libyan government has agreed to allow two Swiss businessmen held in the country for more than a year to return home, the official news agency Jana reported Thursday.

The government "decided to approve the accord" late Wednesday and charged the foreign ministry with "taking measures necessary to implement" the text, Jana reported without providing further details.

Tripoli earlier in August promised to allow the two businessmen to leave the country after Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised to the Libyan people for the arrest of one of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's sons, in efforts to end a year-long standoff.

Swiss authorities said Wednesday that the two men, one of whom worked for Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ABB and the other a small construction firm, had received exit visas but were still waiting for Libyan officials to finalise administrative procedures.

Switzerland has sent a plane to take the pair home.

Kadhafi's son Hannibal and his wife were arrested in a luxury Geneva hotel in July 2008 after two of their servants, a Moroccan and a Tunisian, alleged they had been mistreated.

The Kadhafi couple was freed on bail after two days in custody, while the complaint against them was later dropped after a lawyer said the servants had received compensation.

But the incident sparked outrage from the Kadhafi family.

It led to a freeze on Swiss business, the withdrawal of Libyan assets from Swiss banks and disruption to oil deliveries. In addition, the two Swiss businessmen were prevented from leaving the North African country.

Merz's apology sparked a political storm in Switzerland, with Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf saying that "legally one can't apologise in this case," while the daily Le Temps called it a "humiliation."

AFP / Expatica

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