Family of Swiss man speaks of joy at his release from Libya after deal ends 2-year dispute

By Frank Jordans, AP
Monday, June 14, 2010

Joy as Swiss man home from Libya after 2 years

GENEVA — The family of a Swiss citizen held in Libya for two years spoke of their joy Monday at his return home hours after Tripoli and Bern signed an agreement to end their bitter dispute over the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi’s son.

Max Goeldi arrived in Zurich aboard a Spanish military plane along with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who had flown to Libya on Sunday with her Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos to secure the businessman’s release.

“Our joy is indescribable now that the long waiting, worrying and hoping has come to an end,” Goeldi’s family said in a statement.

Switzerland paid $1.5 million for mistreating Hannibal Gadhafi during his arrest in Geneva in 2008 and apologized for the publication of mugshots of the Libyan leader’s son that led Tripoli to escalate its demands on the Alpine nation

Daniel Graf, a spokesman for Amnesty International, said he was “very relieved” by the release. The group had campaigned for the release of Goeldi and fellow Swiss citizen Rachid Hamdani, describing their prosecution by Libya as politically motivated.

Hamdani was acquitted in February and allowed to leave Libya, while Goeldi was sentenced to four months in prison for violating residency laws and operating a business illegally.

Goeldi’s employer, the Swiss-Swedish engineering company ABB, said in a statement it was “happy for him and his family, and grateful to all those who worked so hard for his release.”

Goeldi and Hamdani were detained in 2008, days after Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife were arrested for allegedly beating their servants in a Swiss luxury hotel.

The Gadhafis were released without charge but Libya’s anger at the arrest quickly escalated. It suspended visas for Swiss citizens, withdrew funds from Swiss banks, stopped oil shipments and reduced flights to Switzerland.

In February Moammar Gadhafi called on Muslims to wage jihad, or holy war, against Switzerland, later accusing the country of behaving like a criminal organization that was involved in money laundering, assassinations and terrorism.

The row drew in other European countries when Switzerland tried to exert pressure on Tripoli by banning high-ranking Libyan officials from obtaining visas to visit Europe. Bern was forced to back down by Italy and other countries with strong economic ties to the North African nation but received diplomatic support in its negotiations with Libya.

The Swiss government’s repeated failure to end the dispute on its own led to national soul-searching, with many commentators questioning whether the country is capable of defending its interests without the help of more powerful European nations.

Sunday’s deal between Switzerland and Libya, which was also signed by representatives of the German and Spanish governments, foresees the establishment of an “arbitration tribunal” in Germany.


Associated Press Writer Khaled Al-Deeb contributed to this report from Tripoli, Libya.

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