Swiss region ready to pay compensation to Qadhafi son

Geneva–A Swiss regional government said Wednesday it was ready to pay compensation to a son of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi in a step to ease a diplomatic spat with Libya over his 2008 arrest.

The government of the Geneva canton confirmed it had lodged a court application on Tuesday about the affair which caused Libya to impose sanctions and arrest two Swiss businessmen in Tripoli, one of whom is still held.

Swiss public television channel SFTV showed late Tuesday a court filing in which the Geneva government accepted responsibility for the leak to a newspaper of police mugshots of Hannibal Qadhafi after his brief arrest.

Hannibal Qadhafi and his wife were suspected of mistreating two of their domestic staff in a Geneva hotel and were held for two days in July 2008.

In the filing the Geneva’ State Council asked the court to conclude "the state of Geneva accepts its responsibility on the basis that the photographs of Mr Hannibal Kadhafi should never have reached the Tribune de Geneve" newspaper.

It asked the court, expected to consider the filing on Thursday, "to allocate… an equitable indemnity" to the plaintiff.

It also called on the court to determine the newspaper’s role and share of the unspecified damages, according to the document.

The canton’s statement confirming the case said it was in response to proceedings launched by Qadhafi’s third son. It also pledged to punish the source of leak.

Diplomats said the publication of photographs of a dishevelled-looking Hannibal Qadhafi in the newspaper last September had added to the Qadhafi family’s anger about the case.

The Geneva government has however steadfastly refused to apologize for the arrest of Qadhafi and his wife, standing by the decisions of its police force and independent judiciary.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz’s apology last August to Libya for an "unjust arrest" sparked a bitter domestic political row and ultimately failed to resolve the standoff, which instead escalated.

One of two detained Swiss businessmen was released last month but the other, ABB employee Max Goeldi, is serving a four-month jail term in Libya on visa offences.

Human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday launched a global campaign to secure the remaining businessman’s release, calling him " a prisoner of conscience."

"The organization considers Max Goeldi to be a prisoner of conscience, detained by virtue of his nationality following a politically-motivated trial," it said in a statement.

Geneva State Council president Francois Longchamp told journalists: "We will not comment as long as the second Swiss citizen has not returned to the country."

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