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Libya reportedly demands money for freedom

Two Swiss nationals held in Libya for over a year have not yet left Tripoli despite undertakings by the Libyan prime minister that they would be free by September 1.

This content was published on September 1, 2009 - 16:00

Media reports say that Libya is now demanding that 500,000 Libyan dinars (SFr423,000) be paid by each man before they are allowed to return to Switzerland. It is not clear whether the money is supposed to be a fine or bail.

The businessmen were detained in July 2008 in the aftermath of the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, and his wife, in Geneva. The Gaddafi couple were held for allegedly physically mistreating two of their servants, while the businessmen were accused of violating visa regulations.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz went to Tripoli on August 20 and apologized for the arrest, an action which has aroused intense controversy in Switzerland since he did not have the backing of the cabinet as a whole.

AP quoted a spokesman for Merz as saying on Tuesday that Libya had broken its word. The prime minister had given Merz a written assurance that the men would leave Tripoli by midnight on August 31, he said.

According to AP, the spokesman added that Libya had also failed to appoint within the agreed time its representative to a three-judge arbitration panel which is to consider the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi.

He declined to comment on the reports that Libya was now demanding payment for the release of the men.

However, he said Merz would not be resigning, despite his assurances that he would take responsibility for the failure of his Tripoli mission should the two men not return by the agreed deadline.

Meanwhile Merz's cabinet colleague, Pascal Couchepin, told journalists that he would support the president at Wednesday's cabinet meeting which is to discuss the affair.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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