Swiss: Pair detained in Libya delivered to embassy

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2009 9:42 AM

Two Swiss businessmen detained by Libya over a spat involving leader Moammar Gadhafi's son have been handed over to their embassy in Tripoli, Switzerland's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Libyan authorities gave no reason for transferring the pair back to the embassy after holding them at an unknown location for almost two months, the ministry said.

The men, who it said had been "abducted," are "in good health considering the circumstances," the ministry said.

It is unclear whether the men will now be allowed to leave Libya.

Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani were detained in July 2008 on alleged visa violations _ days after Swiss police arrested Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife for allegedly beating up their servants in a Geneva luxury hotel.

Hannibal Gadhafi was held for two days before being allowed to return home. The complaint was eventually dropped after the two servants received compensation from an undisclosed source.

Switzerland apologized for the manner of the arrest and subjected itself to possible compensation claims as part of an agreement reached in August in Tripoli, but later suspended the deal after repeated attempts to secure the release of Goeldi and Hamdani failed.

The saga has badly damaged relations between the two countries and prompted calls in Switzerland for the resignation of Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, who staked his credibility on the men's release.

In addition to detaining the men, Libya recalled some of its diplomats from Switzerland, suspended visas for Swiss citizens, withdrew funds from Swiss banks, stopped crude oil shipments and reduced flights to the Alpine country.

Libya escalated the dispute in September by transferring Goeldi and Hamdani to a secret location "for their own security," citing the purported "threat that Switzerland might free them militarily," according to a Libyan government letter quoted by the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

This prompted the Swiss government last week to suspend an August deal aimed at repairing damaged relations with Libya _ to cheers across the political spectrum. Bern also tightened visa rules for senior Libyan officials, a move observers said could directly affect the Gadhafi family's ability to travel easily around Europe.