April 9, 2009 / 12:26 PM / 9 years ago

Libya sues Geneva after son held in assault case

* Libya lodges lawsuit against Geneva after son’s arrest

* Charges police used disproportionate means, seeks damages

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, April 9 (Reuters) - Libya is suing the Geneva authorities for more than 500,000 Swiss francs ($435,500) following the arrest of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son last July in an assault case, their lawyer said on Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges police used disproportionate means when arresting Hannibal Gaddafi, now 32, and his pregnant wife Aline on charges of mistreating two domestic employees.

Some 20 armed police forced open their luxury hotel suite after being alerted to repeated altercations. The couple had come to the Swiss city to give birth to their second child.

"We are seeking a finding by the court that the police action was disproportionate. Under Swiss law, disproportionate action by a state is illegal and it opens the way for a claim for damages," Charles Poncet, who represents Libya and the Gaddafis, told Reuters.

Gaddafi was led away in handcuffs, a "degrading measure" even though he did not resist arrest, according to the suit obtained by Reuters. Aline was taken to a maternity ward and their 3-year-old son was left shocked by the events, it said.

The case sparked a diplomatic crisis between Switzerland and the north African country which said it would withdraw assets from Swiss banks and stop supplying Switzerland with oil.

Two Swiss nationals in Libya were detained and later released, but are still not authorised to leave the country, the Swiss foreign ministry says.


The civil suit, filed late on Wednesday in a Geneva court, also seeks reimbursement of the Gaddafis’ legal fees.

The couple denied the charges of assault, restraint and verbal threats against their employees and left the country quickly after being freed on 500,000 francs bail.

Geneva’s prosecutor dropped the case in September after the plaintiffs, a Tunisian woman and a Moroccan man, withdrew their formal complaint after reaching an undisclosed settlement with the Gaddafis.

Tripoli has repeatedly demanded an apology from Swiss federal authorities, who have refused saying that the affair was being handled by the canton’s independent judiciary.

The Swiss foreign ministry had hoped to resolve the row with the help of another Gaddafi son, Saif al Islam, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, but failed.

Laurent Moutinot, justice minister in Geneva’s cantonal government, said the police had acted correctly.

"If it had been an ordinary citizen who wasn’t named Gaddafi, he would have spent two weeks in jail rather than one night," he told reporters last month. (Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Jon Boyle)

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