Gaddafi goes after Switzerland....
He clearly doesn't like the ban on minarets...
Three days after Switzerland voted to ban minarets on mosques, enraging the Muslim world, a Libyan court has sentenced two Swiss businessmen to 16 months in prison for violating immigration laws. That could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. It is much more likely to be Colonel Gaddafi’s latest act of vengeance against a country that has seriously upset him.
Indeed the saga shows why last summer’s search for proof that the British and/or Scottish governments released the Lockerbie bomber to protect commercial interests in Libya was futile. There was no need for an explicit quid pro quo. Libya’s treatment of Switzerland makes it abundantly clear what happens to countries that cross its oil-rich regime. Had Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi died in a Scottish prison, Britain would have paid a price.
Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani’s misfortunes began in July last year when Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, and his pregnant daughter-in-law were arrested in a Geneva hotel and charged with beating their servants. The Gaddafis spent two nights in custody before they flew home.
Reprisals followed. Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrew $5 billion from Swiss banks and cut Swissair flights to Tripoli. It also arrested Mr Goeldi, director of an engineering company, and Mr Hamdani, who worked for a construction firm, for breaching immigration laws. Expatriates in Libya say that they might have been guilty of a minor infringement, but that was merely a pretext.
The two were released after ten days, but barred from leaving the country. Mr Goeldi took refuge in the Swiss Embassy for more than a year. In August President Merz of Switzerland flew to Tripoli to make a grovelling apology, but the Libyans still refused to let the businessmen leave. They tricked Mr Goeldi into leaving the embassy by saying that he had to have a hospital check-up before flying home.
None of this has anything to do with justice, of course. The two servants dropped their case against Hannibal Gaddafi after the regime paid them compensation. The Libyans planned to release Mr Goeldi and Mr Hamdani after President Merz’s apology, but changed their mind when a Swiss paper published a photograph of Hannibal Gaddafi in police custody. The businessmen were tried in absentia, with no lawyers or foreign journalists present.