Libya/Switzerland

Swiss national to leave Tripoli embassy, turn himself in to police

Revelers carry representations of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, 22 February 2010
Revelers carry representations of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, 22 February 2010 Reuters

A Swiss businessman who has been held in Libya since 2008 is to leave the Swiss embassy in Tripoli and hand himself over to authorities to serve out prison sentence. Another businessman who was arrested at the same time has been allowed to leave the country, after he was cleared of charges against him.

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Max Goeldi is to turn himself in to the Libyan authorities Monday to serve out a four-month prison sentence, according to his lawyer, Salah Zahaf.

The Swiss embassy had been given a deadline of Monday at noon to release Goeldi to police custody.

“He will leave the embassy and turn himself in voluntarily,” Zahaf told the AFP news agency, adding that he expected Goeldi to be taken to Ain Zara prison.

Goeldi, a senior manager at the Swedish/Swish engineering firm ABB, was arrested in July 2008 and sentenced to four months in prison and a 600-euro fine for overstaying his visa and conducting illegal business activities.

Zahaf said that he will appeal for a pardon for his client.

Rachid Hamdani, another Swiss businessman with the company PME Suisse, who was arrested at the same time as Goeldi – and was eventually cleared of the same charges – was seen Monday leaving the embassy.

“He is getting ready to leave the country,” said Zahaf, adding that Hamdani was going to the passport service for the required Libyan exit visa. “Rashid will leave right after that for Tunisia.”

The arrest of the two businessmen is part of an ongoing diplomatic row between Switzerland and Libya, which started in July 2008 when Swiss authorities detained  Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son Hannibal and his wife for two days over complaints of mistreatment by two domestic workers.

Libya swiftly detained the two Swiss businessmen who were in Libya in a move that Amnesty International and the UN have criticised as politically motivated.

Switzerland then put over 180 senior Libyans on a blacklist last autumn, including President Kadhafi and Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa, blocking them from entering Swiss territory.

In retaliation, last week Tripoli banned Swiss citizens from entering Libya, which effectively blocks citizens of the 25-state European Schengen zone, as a travel ban on one member effectively bars all. This has raised concern in European countries, because of the many oil investments in Libya.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said she was trying to resolve the diplomatic tensions. She and her Libyan counterpart met last week in Madrid for the first time in months.

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