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Protesters show solidarity with Swiss hostages

Some 50 people have demonstrated outside the United Nations in Geneva to express their solidarity with the two Swiss nationals held in Libya and their families.

This content was published on September 4, 2009 - 15:50

The federal government this week urged Libya to comply with an accord with Switzerland and allow two Swiss businessmen, held for 412 days, to leave the country.

"The government did exactly what it had to do," Stephane Valente, the organiser of the demonstration and local Swiss People's Party councillor, told swissinfo.ch.

"It's now up to the Libyan authorities to take on their responsibilities."

"All Swiss should be here to show that they are fed up," said Geneva doctor Bertrand Buchs. "Maybe they'll return tomorrow or in three months' time. You can't predict the decision of one man who is determined to annoy right up to the end."

Two weeks ago Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz travelled to Tripoli to sign an accord and to apologise for the arrest of the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were accused of abusing their domestic staff during a stay in Geneva.

Merz was given assurances by the Libyan prime minister, al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, that the Swiss businessmen would be allowed to return home by September 1. However, to date they have still not received the necessary permission to leave. Their departure has been blocked as a result of alleged immigration violations.

On Friday Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz told business leaders in Zürich that he had no new developments to report.

"But everything must be undertaken to enable the two nationals to leave, not just because their situation is gruelling but because the efforts are symbolic," said Merz.

"It should be made clear that Switzerland is concerned that if its nationals get into such difficulties abroad they are able to return home."

Simon Bradley in Geneva, swissinfo.ch

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