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Metzler has signed controversial treaty with Egypt

Justice minister, Ruth Metzler, signs a landmark treaty with Egypt.

(Keystone / Edi Engeler)

The Swiss Justice Minister, Ruth Metzler, has signed Switzerland's first judicial aid treaty with an Arab country during her visit to Egypt. The treaty between the Swiss and Eyptian governments was signed in Cairo on Saturday.

Metzler put her signature under the treaty together with her Eyptian counterpart, Farouq Seif el Nasr.

The accord provides for the seizure and exchange of documents, as well as the extradition of suspected criminals. Swiss parliament will now have to ratify it.

The treaty also gives Switzerland a get-out clause if it feels that a suspect will not get a fair trial in Egypt.

It is said to be the first time a "human rights" clause has been inserted in a Swiss judicial assistance accord.

Under its state of emergency regulations, Egypt uses military rather than civilian courts for certain trials.

Discussions on the accord started in 1995. The Swiss approved it earlier this year.

The treaty has also been described as controversial because of legal cooperation difficulties which Switzerland reported after the 1997 massacre of tourists - 36 of them Swiss - by Moslem extremists at Luxor.

Although the issue has now been largely resolved, Switzerland accused Egypt of failing to inform adequately about its investigation into the massacre.

Egypt has also opted not to contribute to a fund opened in Switzerland for the massacre victims and their families.

After the signing of the treaty, Metzler met the Egyptian interior minister, Habib el Adly, to discuss closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism and immigration questions.

swissinfo with agencies

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