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Libya sends out mixed signals

Hannibal Gaddafi visits Max Göldi in jail Keystone

Swiss businessman Max Göldi has received a visit in his Tripoli jail from Hannibal Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

The two met in an office on Monday. Göldi’s lawyer, Salah Zahaf, and a number of journalists were present for part of their meeting.

“I am honoured that Captain Hannibal came to see me and I hope he can use his influence to help me in my situation,” Göldi said.

The two men subsequently continued their conversation alone.

Göldi started a four-month sentence last Monday, after being found guilty of visa violations. He has been prevented from leaving Libya since July 2008, shortly after the brief detention in Geneva of Hannibal and his wife.

The Gaddafi couple were accused of mistreating two of their domestic staff. The charges were withdrawn after the servants accepted compensation.

The Libyans took a number of economic measures against Switzerland, but have always denied any connection between Hannibal’s detention and the arrest of the Göldi and a second Swiss businessman who was allowed to return home last week.


Zahaf told journalists that he had filed an appeal on behalf of Göldi with Libya’s highest court on Sunday, but later reports suggested some confusion about the timetable.

Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for the human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has been monitoring the Göldi case closely, told that Göldi seemed to be making three separate appeals.

The first is an appeal against his sentence, the second a request for pardon and the third for a reduction of his sentence.

“Clearly with this three-axis strategy there he has a maximum of chances. Presidential pardons have been granted on several occasions in Libya and this was already the case last year for someone Amnesty was following,” she said.

She confirmed that Göldi was being held in an individual cell and was being treated “quite well”, with visits allowed from his lawyer and the Swiss embassy. However, Amnesty continues to oppose his detention, and is calling for his immediate release.


Zahaf said the Libyan side had shown “flexibility and responsiveness on the administrative, political and judicial level”, but he accused Switzerland of “footdragging”.

He attacked Switzerland over the slowness of its investigation into the leak of police photos of Hannibal which appeared in a Swiss newspaper.

“I should like to ask the Swiss government about the reasons for this delay,” he said.

“Switzerland must give Captain Hannibal the right to exercise his right… The leak of pictures was unacceptable and against the law,” Göldi told journalists.

Hannibal submitted an official complaint about the photos in December and demanded compensation from the canton of Geneva and the Tribune de Genève newspaper which published them.

Conflicting messages

But while the news from the jail appeared positive, events around the Swiss embassy in Tripoli on Monday gave a different message.

The Italian news agency reported that about a thousand demonstrators held a demonstration calling for “holy war” against Switzerland. Gaddafi on Thursday called for all Muslims to boycott Switzerland and to conduct “jihad” against it because of the popular vote in November banning the construction of minarets.

The impact of Gaddafi’s call is not clear. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who is visiting Geneva, told journalists that “calling a jihad must meet certain specific preconditions”, and added that he had no comment to make in this case.

He said he had expressed to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey his hopes for a peaceful resolution of the quarrel between Libya and Switzerland.

Meanwhile the umbrella group of Muslim organisations in the western canton of Vaud has written an open letter to Gaddafi describing his call as “unacceptable”, and pointing out that as a secular state Switzerland treats all religions equally.

The group called on him to find a “speedy solution” to the Göldi case, saying the businessman had “paid enough for the violations he is accused of”. and agencies (with input from Simon Bradley in Geneva)

July 2008: Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife are charged with abusing their staff. The staff are later compensated and charges dropped. Swiss nationals Max Göldi and Rachid Hamdani are arrested. Swiss businesses are forced to shut and flights to Tripoli are cut.

June 2009: Libya withdraws assets from Swiss banks.

August: The Swiss president apologises for Hannibal’s arrest.

September: Göldi and Hamdani disappear after a medical check-up in Tripoli.

October: A deadline for normalising Swiss-Libya relations passes.

November: Swiss ministers say they will pursue visa restrictions for Libyans. Göldi and Hamdani are sentenced to 16 months in prison for visa violations.

January 2010: Hamdani’s term is overturned and Göldi’s is cut.

February: After reports of a Swiss visa blacklist of 188 top Libyans, Libya stops issuing visas to citizens from the Schengen zone. European foreign ministers try to hammer out a solution. Göldi starts prison term. Hamdani is allowed to leave Libya.

February 25: Gaddafi calls for holy war against Switzerland.

February 28: Lawyer submits appeal for pardon for Göldi.

March 02: Hannibal visits Göldi in jail.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR