DC

Swiss sued over Gadhafi-linked crash in DC

AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2011 12:25 PM
Swiss sued over Gadhafi-linked crash in DC

The Swiss government faces a $10 million lawsuit over the death of a woman struck by a Swiss Embassy vehicle driven in Washington by a man linked to the family of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 22 by National War College law professor Harvey Rishikof. It targets both Kamal Mortada, the driver of the SUV that hit and killed Rishikof's 64-year-old wife, Trudith, and Mortada's employer, the Swiss Confederation.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry and the Swiss Embassy in Washington each said Thursday they had not yet been formally notified of the lawsuit and would have no comment. The suit seeks damages of at least $10 million, plus legal costs.

Harvey Rishikof, reached by telephone Thursday, referred questions to his attorney. E-mails sent to two attorneys listed on the lawsuit were not immediately returned.

Rishikof's wife's death on Oct. 6, one day before her 65th birthday, made headlines in Switzerland because of the mysterious re-emergence of Mortada, one of two servants who reported to Geneva police in 2008 that they were beaten by Gadhafi's son Hannibal and his son's wife, Aline.

The Gadhafis' arrests on assault charges led to a high-profile diplomatic spat between Libya and Switzerland. They were freed on bail two days after their arrests but a series of recriminations still ensued that included Libya recalling some of its diplomats from Switzerland, suspending the issuing of visas for Swiss citizens and detaining two Swiss businessmen.

Charges against the Gadhafis were later dropped and the Swiss government apologized for the arrests. That capitulation by then-Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz _ and his agreement to possible compensation claims for the Gadhafis' arrests _ angered and embarrassed the Swiss, just months after Switzerland had bowed to the demands of the United States and other foreign governments seeking a tougher crackdown on tax evaders hiding money in Swiss banks.

It has yet to be explained how Mortada wound up working at the Swiss Embassy, located in an elegant residential area of Washington known as Cleveland Park.

The lawsuit alleges that Mortada lacked diplomatic immunity when he "negligently and recklessly drove the SUV that struck and killed" Trudith Rishikof. The accident report says Mortada was turning the SUV onto a busy road, Connecticut Avenue, near the National Zoo, when Rishikof was hit shortly before 11 a.m.

The report said she had the right-of-way in a pedestrian crosswalk and Mortada had a cellphone but there was no indication he had been drinking. He was uninjured, and Rishikof died at a hospital. The Swiss embassy expressed its condolences to her family.

A phone number listed for Mortada on the accident report from the crash was disconnected.

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Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.