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Gaddafi mugshot case gets underway

A Geneva court has opened a hearing on the civil complaint by Hannibal Gaddafi against a Swiss newspaper and the canton for publishing a police photograph.

The canton of Geneva, which has said it regrets the publication of the photos in the Tribune de Genève newspaper on September 4, 2009 and is ready to pay compensation, was keen to see a quick judgment of the case.

David Lachat, a lawyer for the cantonal government, said issuing a judgment soon would help to resolve the ongoing crisis between Switzerland and Libya.

But the court only dealt with procedural issues, including whether a further investigation was necessary and witnesses should be heard. It was unclear when a decision could be expected.

Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, is demanding SFr100,000 ($95,000) in compensation. He and his wife were detained in July 2008 after Geneva police received complaints that they had seriously mistreated two of their domestic staff.

The court is to decide how any compensation to Libya will be divided between the Tribune de Genève and the canton.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the canton said it deplored that the newspaper had come into possession of the mugshot. Authorities said a cantonal employee seemed to have been behind the newspaper getting the photos.

Geneva prosecutors have said the investigation into the leak is underway but will take some time because of the huge amount of computer data to assess.

For its part, the Tribune said on Wednesday it was “shocked” by some of the Geneva government’s written statements to the court. On its website, chief editor Pierre Ruetschi said being found guilty ahead of the hearing was “intolerable”.

Ruetschi told he would not apologise as they had published the photos for legitimate journalistic purposes. and agencies

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