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Swiss hostage’s prison term is overturned

A Libyan appeal court has cleared Swiss businessman Rachid Hamdani of illegally being in the country and overturned his 16-month prison sentence.

Hamdani and fellow Swiss Max Göldi were convicted of visa violations last November and each sentenced to 16 months in a Libyan jail. Both appealed against the ruling.

They also faced charges of carrying out illegal business activities.

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed the announcement of Sunday's appeal court ruling.

The same day, Hamdani appeared in court over the alleged illegal business activities. A verdict on those charges is due on February 7, the lawyer said.

A verdict in Göldi’s immigration appeal is expected on February 4 and for the second charge two days later.

The pair were first arrested amid a diplomatic spat between Switzerland and Libya following the arrest of one of Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi’s sons in a Geneva hotel in July 2008.

They were released later that month and sought refuge in the Swiss embassy. The last time they left the compound, in mid-September for medical tests, they were taken by authorities to an undisclosed location in Tripoli – something Bern called a “kidnapping”.

Both men now remain at the Swiss embassy. and agencies

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