Diplomatic row worsens as Libya frees Swiss man and jails second

ONE of two Swiss businessmen held in Libya for 19 months amid a diplomatic row between the two states left for home yesterday, as the other man emerged from his country’s embassy to serve time in jail.

Rashid Hamdani travelled overland to neighbouring Tunisia after coming out of the embassy, where the pair had taken shelter, and receiving an exit visa from Libyan authorities, their lawyer Salah Zahaf said.

Max Goeldi, the other businessman, was later seen emerging from the diplomatic mission, handcuffed and put in a civilian car which was escorted away by two police vehicles, one journalist said.

Zahaf said earlier he expected Goeldi to be taken to Ain Zara prison near Tripoli, insisting, however, that he would apply for a pardon.

Several dozen Libyan police had encircled the mission since Sunday in the countdown to thehandover, witnesses said.

The pair have been caught in a bitter diplomatic row between Tripoli and Bern since the brief arrest in July 2008 of Hannibal Kadhafi, a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, at a Geneva hotel with his wife.

Goeldi surrendered following an ultimatum by the Libyan authorities to the Swiss embassy to hand him over by midday (10am GMT) yesterday to serve a four-month jail sentence or face measures.

“He will leave the embassy and turn himself in voluntarily,” Zahaf told reporters earlier.

Goeldi, a senior manager at Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ABB, will be held in a prison open to visitors and where he can receive medical care and the services of a translator, Zahaf said.

Libya’s official news agency JANA said the foreign ministry issued the ultimatum for Goeldi to turn himself in at a meeting with European Union ambassadors on Sunday night.

The businessman faces the four-month sentence, reduced from an earlier 16-month term, for overstaying his visa and an 800-dollar fine for illegal business activities.


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