Libya continues to dominate Swiss concerns

The Swiss justice minister says there may be legal problems over a tribunal set to look into last year's detention in Geneva of a son of Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi.

This content was published on August 23, 2009

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the legal basis was questionable, adding that the issue would be put forward at next Wednesday's meeting of the seven-member Swiss cabinet.

The Swiss president, Hans-Rudolf Merz, apologised on Thursday in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for the detention of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife Aline in July 2008 after Geneva police received reports of the mistreatment of two domestic staff.

The apology has led to widespread criticism in Switzerland and called into question the competence of the cantons, which are responsible for police matters.

Widmer-Schlumpf told the Sonntag newspaper that she had been surprised by an accord signed by Merz and the Libyan authorities setting up the tribunal, which will be based in London.

At stake are not only relations between Switzerland and Libya, but also the future of two Swiss who have been detained in Libya and are not free to leave the country.

Sunday newspapers reported that Merz had become increasingly "politically isolated" because the two Swiss had not been released immediately, adding that Merz had become the third hostage to Libya.

Widmer-Schlumpf said that if the two were not released soon, the issue would become "politically very difficult".

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard told Swiss radio the affair had to be discussed at the cabinet to clear up possible conflicts between the finance and foreign ministries.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told two Sunday newspapers that it was important for the two Swiss to be released soon, after being detained for just over a year.

But she did not wish to be drawn on other questions about the case. and agencies

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