March 6, 2011 / 10:18 AM / 8 years ago

Swiss want probe into Libya detention of citizens

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey wants an investigation into Libya’s detention of two Swiss businessmen who were caught up in a diplomatic row over the Swiss arrest of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“We should defend ourselves now against what was done to the two Swiss back then,” Calmy-Rey told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper in an interview on Sunday.

Relations between Switzerland and Libya soured in 2008 when Geneva police arrested a son of Gaddafi on charges — later dropped — of abusing two domestic employees.

Libyan officials deny their cases had anything to do with Hannibal Gaddafi’s arrest, but Switzerland says they were innocent pawns caught up in Libya’s retaliation against Berne.

The two men, Max Goeldi, head of Libya operations for the Swiss engineering firm ABB, and businessman Rachid Hamdani, were released last year after tortuous negotiations.

“I can imagine that one starts a preliminary investigation to look into the background of the kidnapping of Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani in the fall of 2009 and to bring those guilty before a judge,” Calmy-Rey said.

She said with the two men back home and the Swiss embassy in Tripoli closed, Switzerland was free in its dealings with Libya after two years of difficult relations.

“I could write a book about how difficult that was. Precisely because of my own experience I admire Libyans for their courage to rebel against this dictator,” she said.

On Friday, Switzerland banned transfers of money that could end up in the hands of Gaddafi’s family and associates after it froze assets of 29 Libyans linked to the Gaddafi last month.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Gaddafi and his family for his repression of a popular uprising in which possibly thousands have been killed.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Michael Roddy

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