Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009

Libya releases Swiss businessmen

Swiss embassy, Tripoli, Libya
The men were returned to the Tripoli embassy without explanation

Two Swiss businessmen abducted in Libya in August have been handed over to the Swiss embassy, officials say.

Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani have been held in Libya for more than a year in the midst of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The pair were refused exit visas in July 2008, following the arrest in Switzerland of the son of Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

They were returned to the Swiss embassy without explanation, Switzerland says.

The businessmen were as well as could be expected in the circumstances, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said, but it is not clear whether they will now be free to leave Libya.

Retaliatory measures

Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were detained in July 2008 after being arrested at their luxury hotel in Geneva accused of beating two of their servants.

The couple were released on bail within days and returned to Libya. The charges were later dropped, but the case infuriated Tripoli.

Their arrest sparked retaliatory measures from Tripoli, including the cancelling of oil deliveries, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

Mr Goeldi and Mr Hamdani were prevented from leaving the country days after the arrest of the Gaddafis.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised for the arrests in August - in a move many hoped would secure the businessmen's release - but since then the pair had been held at an undisclosed location, Swiss authorities said.

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