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Trial of second businessman postponed in Libya

The trial in Libya of a second Swiss businessman accused of conducting “illegal economic activities” was postponed on Sunday when the accused failed to appear.

Rachid Hamdani, like fellow-countryman Max Göldi on Saturday, refused to leave the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, where the two men have been living for several months.

The men’s lawyer, Salah Zahaf, said Hamdani’s trial was now scheduled for January 31. Göldi’s is due to take place the day before.

The two have already been sentenced to 16 months in jail and a fine of $1,500 each (SFr 1,540) for visa irregularities and tax evasion. Their appeals against the verdict have been postponed twice because the court is demanding that they turn up in person for the hearings.

The men are unwilling to leave the embassy for fear of being detained.

They have been prevented from leaving Libya since July 2008, shortly after Geneva police arrested Hannibal Gaddafi, a son of Libyan ruler Moammar Gaddafi, and his wife on charges they abused their domestic staff at a city hotel. The servants later received compensation and withdrew the charges.

Libya insists that there is no connection between the detention of the businessmen and the Hannibal affair.

Meanwhile, the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has renewed her criticism of Tripoli.

“What Libya is doing to our two fellow-citizens is quite unacceptable,” she said in an interview published in two Swiss newspapers on Sunday. and agencies

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