TUNIS (Reuters) – A top Libyan official on Wednesday welcomed as a “step forward” a call by Swiss officials for damages to be paid to a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was arrested in Geneva in 2008.
Relations between Libya and Switzerland broke down after Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were held briefly on charges, later dropped, of abusing domestic servants in a Geneva hotel.
Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland and withdrew more than $5 billion from Swiss bank accounts. This month it declared a trade and economic embargo on Switzerland.
In a statement published on its website on Wednesday, the Canton of Geneva said it deplored that the newspaper Tribune de Geneve came into possession of police pictures of Hannibal Gaddafi, taken when he was arrested in Geneva in 2008.
The canton said one of its employees seemed to have been behind the newspaper getting the photos and that compensation, the amount of which had yet to be determined, should be paid.
Libya has been demanding compensation for the leaked photos of Hannibal Gaddafi for months.
Libyan Public Security Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi welcomed the comments but said Switzerland must meet other Libyan demands if ties between the two countries were to improve.
“It’s a step forward,” Abidi told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on Arab interior ministers in Tunis.
“But they must still reverse the decision to ban the construction of minarets because it is a dangerous subject that we cannot overlook. They must also remove the list of Libyan people forbidden from entering Switzerland.”
“We don’t plan to travel to Switzerland, but their decision is racist and against human rights and all international laws,” Abidi said.
Libya froze the issue of visas to citizens of most European countries after Switzerland barred senior Libyans, including Gaddafi family members, from traveling to European countries within the Schengen area, which includes most of Western Europe.
In a speech last month, Gaddafi condemned a Swiss referendum decision in November last year to ban the construction of minarets and called for a “jihad” against Switzerland.
The latest comment by Geneva officials may be aimed at securing the release from jail of a Swiss businessman detained in Libya shortly after Hannibal’s arrest.
The businessman, Max Goeldi, is now serving a four-month sentence for immigration violations. Libyan officials say his case has no link to Geneva arrest.