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Swiss man arrested in row with Libya goes on trial

Swiss man arrested in row with Libya goes on trial

A Swiss man arrested in Libya during a diplomatic row between the two countries appeared in court Saturday to face charges of operating a business without a license, his lawyer said. The judge announced he will issue a verdict in March.
The trials of Max Goeldi and another Swiss businessman, Rachid Hamdani, are at the heart of a diplomatic dispute that has sorely taxed Libyan-Swiss relations.
The two men were detained in Libya in 2008 days after police in Switzerland arrested Hannibal Gadhafi, the son of Libya's leader, and his wife for allegedly beating their servants in a Geneva hotel. Libya accused authorities there of using excessive force during Gadhafi's arrest.
Libya responded by recalling some of its diplomats from Switzerland, suspending visas for Swiss citizens, withdrawing funds from Swiss banks, stopping crude oil shipments and reducing flights to Switzerland.
Switzerland has demanded that the two Swiss businessmen be allowed to return home.
In an earlier trial, the two businessmen were convicted last month of violating residency rules and were sentenced to 16 months in prison and fined $1,500 each. Both appealed that verdict and have been allowed to stay at the Swiss Embassy in Tripoli pending the outcome of the second trial.
Goeldi's lawyer, Saleh al-Zahif, said his client appeared in court Saturday for the first time in the second trial. He and Hamdani failed to appear at earlier hearings because they and the Swiss government were seeking assurances they would not be taken back into Libyan custody.
Al-Zahif would not comment on whether such a guarantee had been given.
The hearings for the two men are separate. Hamdani is expected in court Sunday, al-Zahif said.
Reporters have not been allowed to cover the trials, and al-Zahif said he was not allowed to make public any details of the proceedings or the precise nature of their alleged offenses.
The court will issue its verdict on March 4, he said. The charge of conducting business activities in Libya without a license carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Hannibal Gadhafi was held for two days in Geneva before being allowed to return to Libya. The complaint against him was eventually dropped after the two servants received compensation from an undisclosed source.
Switzerland apologized for the manner of the arrest and opened itself to possible compensation claims as part of the August agreement reached in Tripoli, but it later suspended the deal after repeated attempts to secure the release of Goeldi and Hamdani failed.


Updated : 2021-04-18 02:55 GMT+08:00