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Libya keeps Swiss waiting on freed businessman

Libya keeps Swiss waiting on freed businessman
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Swiss officials are keeping their fingers crossed for the safe return of a businessman held by Libya for nearly two years.

Max Göldi was released from a Libyan jail yesterday, two days before completing a four-month sentence for violating immigration rules.

He is now waiting for an exit visa and, with Friday being a non-work day in Libya, he may be free to return to Switzerland any time from Saturday, but the Swiss foreign minister is wary of last minute surprises. Speaking from New York, Michelle Calmy-Rey said:

“We’re moderately optimistic because as you know in this case we’ve constantly had peaks of stress, peaks of optimism, peaks of pessimism but we can’t say right now that everything is resolved.”

Göldi worked in Libya for a Swiss engineering firm. He was banned from leaving the country in September 2008, days after the son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was arrested in Switzerland accused of mistreating hotel chambermaids.

The charges against Hannibal Gaddafi were eventually dropped but his arrest led to heightened tension between Switzerland and Libya. Colonel Gaddafi even appeared to call for a “jihad” against the Swiss, although his aides say that by this he meant a trade embargo rather than a holy war.

Libya denies that it arrested Göldi in revenge for the Gaddafi incident but human rights groups have maintained that Göldi’s detention was politically motivated and that he was an innocent victim of a diplomatic dispute.