Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Libya sentences Swiss men to jail amid Gaddafi son row

Hannibal Gaddafi (2005)
Hannibal Gaddafi's arrest sparked a major diplomatic spat

Two Swiss businessmen have been given 16-month jail terms in Libya, amid a row over the arrest last year of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son in Geneva.

Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani were convicted of immigration offences.

Unnamed Libyan officials have said the men will now face trial for illegal economic activities in a case scheduled to start on 15 December.

The Swiss foreign ministry says the men have not been sent to jail - and are at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli.

Analysts are linking the cases with Hannibal Gaddafi's arrest on assault charges, which were later dropped. Libyan officials deny any connection.

Mr Gaddafi and his wife were briefly held and accused of abusing two servants.

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

The BBCs Rana Jawad in Tripoli says the reaction to his arrest was unprecedented.

She says Libya is still a country that enjoys exerting its influence on the world stage and analysts are suggesting the jailing of the businessmen could be a simple show of power.

Swiss outrage

The Swiss pair were detained in July last year before being released on bail last month. They have been staying at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli.

Libyan court officials have been quoted as saying the pair were taken to jail after their trial, but Swiss officials say they were tried in absentia and are still at the embassy.

In the trial later this month the two men will be tried for failure to comply with Libya's business laws, officials said. Earlier Libyan officials had said the men would face charges of tax evasion.

Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel told Swiss media his department was co-ordinating the next steps.

Libyan officials said the Swiss businessmen were also fined 2,000 dinars ($1,700; £1,000) each, but had the right to appeal.

The case has sparked outrage in Switzerland, and the government has been criticised for its handling of the affair.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz visited Tripoli in August and issued a public apology for the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi.

But he failed to secure the return of Hamdani, a construction company employee, and Goeldi, Libyan operations manager of engineering firm ABB.

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