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Gaddafi abuse complaints withdrawn

Geneva's public prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, still has to decide whether to continue the case Keystone

Two domestic employees who filed assault charges in Switzerland against a son of the Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi, have withdrawn their complaint.

This content was published on September 2, 2008 - 21:09

The case sparked a diplomatic row between Bern and Tripoli, which imposed retaliatory measures against Swiss businesses and citizens.

Geneva lawyer François Membrez, who represents the two domestic staff, said on Tuesday his clients had decided to withdraw the criminal complaint against Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife.

"Their interests were safeguarded in so far as they were correctly compensated. They were recognised as victims and their suffering was acknowledged," Membrez said in a statement.

The two former staff have gained temporary residency in Switzerland on humanitarian grounds. No details of the compensation payment were released.

Gaddafi and his wife Aline were arrested and charged by a Swiss magistrate with inflicting physical injuries and using threats and force against two of their staff, while staying at a luxury hotel in Geneva in July.

The staff said they were beaten and had boiling water poured over them, and had a medical certificate that proved the injuries.

Reacting to the latest development, Alain Berger, the lawyer representing the Gaddafis, said: "If it is true, it is excellent news." He was still awaiting official confirmation.

The Gaddafis had denied the allegations and were released on SFr500,000 ($476,500) bail after two days in detention.

Geneva justice

The Swiss foreign ministry said it had taken note of the withdrawal of the complaint and that the affair was in the hands of the Geneva judicial authorities.

Geneva chief prosecutor Daniel Zappelli is due to announce on Wednesday whether he will pursue legal proceedings.

Last month Zappelli said the case would not be shelved for political reasons. But he indicated it could be closed if the two employees withdrew their complaints.

Gaddafi's arrest caused uproar in Tripoli.

In the wake of the arrest, Libya imprisoned two Swiss citizens for alleged immigration violations, cut the number of flights between the two countries and force the closure of several Swiss companies in the country.

The Gaddafi family went on record to describe the arrest of Hannibal as an act of anti-Arab racism.

Apology

Libya demanded apologies from Switzerland for the "way in which Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife Aline were treated during questioning", the Swiss foreign ministry recently confirmed.

Tuesday's announcement could pave the way for an easing of tensions between Switzerland and Libya as discussions continue between the two countries to restore bilateral relations.

The Swiss ministry is continuing to advise its citizens against visiting Libya for tourism or non-essential purposes.

The two Swiss nationals held and later released in Libya are still not permitted to leave the country.

Libya also arrested the brother and mother of one of Hannibal's domestic staff. The mother has since been released, but there has been no word of the brother, according to a Geneva lawyer.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Libya is an important economic partner of Switzerland and its main supplier of crude oil.

Political contacts between the two countries also returned to normal after the UN-imposed sanctions were lifted in 2003.

Libya is one of Switzerland's five key export markets on the African continent.

In 1997 Tripoli banned Swiss citizens from entering Libya to protest against Switzerland's refusal to grant a student visa to a son of Colonel Gaddafi. In return the Swiss authorities tightened entry regulations for Libyan citizens. The conflict was solved in April 1998.

There are about 40 Swiss citizens in Libya, most of which have dual nationality.

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Hannibal Gaddafi case

Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were charged by a magistrate in July with inflicting physical injuries and using threats and force against two of their staff.

The two domestic employees who lodged a formal complaint said they were beaten and Gaddafi's wife poured boiling water over them.

They have a medical certificate which proves the injuries, but the Gaddafi couple denies the charges.

The Gaddafi family described the arrest of Hannibal as an act of anti-Arab racism.

Despite pressure from Libya, the Geneva chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, has said the case will not be shelved for political reasons.

He said the Swiss foreign ministry had not brought any pressure to bear, and respected the independence of the judiciary.

Hannibal has run into trouble in European countries before. In 2005 a French court gave him a suspended prison sentence for slapping a pregnant woman and carrying a gun without a licence.

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