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WikiLeaks: Swiss Citizens Back in Libyan Custody

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Tue, March 15, 2011 | WikiLeaks

 

WikiLeaks: Swiss Citizens Back in Libyan Custody

Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto confirmed that the two Swiss citizens – held in Libya for more than a year – had been detained by GOL authorities on September 19 when they reported for medical tests, ostensibly in preparation for their departure.


 

Source: WikiLeaks

Reference ID: 09TRIPOLI763
Created: 2009-09-24 16:04
Classification: SECRET//NOFORN
Origin: Embassy Tripoli

2009-09-24 16:23:00
09TRIPOLI763
Embassy Tripoli

SECRET//NOFORN

09BERN387|09TRIPOLI714

VZCZCXRO3629
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHTRO #0763/01 2671623
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 241623Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5292
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5837

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000763

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/24/2019
TAGS: PREL PHUM CASC LY SZ
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON LIBYAN-SWISS CRISIS: SWISS CITIZENS BACK IN
LIBYAN CUSTODY

REF: A) Tripoli 714; B) Bern 387

TRIPOLI 00000763 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli,
Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto confirmed
that the two Swiss citizens – held in Libya for more than a year
- had been detained by GOL authorities on September 19 when they
reported for medical tests, ostensibly in preparation for their
departure. Lazarotto welcomed U.S. intervention in this case,
but was entirely unaware of Bern’s request for U.S. assistance.
Despite daily calls to contacts in the MFA and Prime Minister’s
Office, the Swiss Embassy has received no direct assurances on
the health or safety of the citizens. Others in the local
diplomatic community have blamed the Swiss for continuing to
mishandle the case, including recent vetoes of Schengen visas
for key Libyan officials. End Summary.

¶2. (S/NF) During a September 22 meeting with P/E Chief, Swiss
Charge Stefano Lazarotto expressed surprise that Post was privy
to information regarding the detention September 19 of two Swiss
citizens who have not been allowed to leave Libya since July
2008 (ref A). Lazarotto claimed to be under strict instructions
from Bern not to discuss the case with other members of the
diplomatic community and was unaware of the request made in Bern
by the Swiss Deputy Foreign Minister for U.S. intervention in
the matter (ref B).

¶3. (S/NF) Lazarotto confirmed that the two Swiss businessmen had
been called by Libyan authorities to report for medical exams in
preparation for their release from the country. However, once
they presented themselves to the GOL, they were taken into
custody unexpectedly and have not been seen since. Lazarotto
said that in spite of daily calls to his contacts in the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office, he has
not been allowed to visit the Swiss citizens. Nor has he
received any positive assurances that the citizens are healthy
and safe. He said that he is updating Bern daily with situation
reports but that nothing had changed since September 19.
Lazarotto has been trying without success to call Prime Minister
al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi directly to plead the Swiss case but has
only been able to reach lower level officials in Mahmoudi’s
office.

¶4. (S/NF) Lazarotto noted that the surprise detention of the
Swiss citizens stood in marked contrast to recent positive
signals, including the dispatch of a team of Libyan officials to
Switzerland to negotiate the way forward (ref B) and an
agreement to prioritize the release of the Swiss businessmen.
While many reasons had been posited for the unexpected detention
of the businessmen, Lazarotto thought the rumor that Libya
feared Swiss military intervention was laughable. He said that
the rumor he had heard was that the GOL was concerned that the
Swiss businessmen would try to flee the country without
permission. However, even that scenario was impossible,
according to Lazarotto, given that his embassy was under 24-hour
surveillance by GOL authorities and that the Libyans would not
allow them to leave without exit stamps in their passports,
which are still being held by the GOL.

¶5. (C/NF) The Swiss Charge welcomed U.S. assistance in urging
the Libyans to release the Swiss businessmen. Lazarotto feared
his position was precarious and expressed appreciation for
continued U.S. interest in the case. He said that the optic of
U.S. interest made him feel safe. Lazarotto reported that he
was also in contact with the Italian, German, and French
Embassies in Tripoli.

¶6. (C/NF) While the Swiss Charge is reaching out across the
local diplomatic community for moral support, representatives of
some embassies in Tripoli blame the Swiss for continuing to
mishandle the case. On September 22, the Ambassador of Portugal
(strictly protect) told the Ambassador that the Swiss were
continuing to provoke the Libyans. Most recently, the Swiss had
reportedly exercised their veto power within the Schengen visa
regime to deny Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi a Schengen visa
to land in Portugal for a matter of hours en route to New York
for the UN General Assembly. The Embassy of Portugal intervened
to avoid a public scandal by issuing a national visa to Qadhafi
for his transit stay. As a second example of what he called a
“continuing pattern of ineptitude” on the part of the Swiss, the
Portuguese Ambassador said that the Swiss had also exercised
their veto right to deny the son of Libyan Prime Minister
al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi – the Libyan official charged with
managing the Swiss case – a Schengen visa for a trip. Once
again, the Portuguese intervened to issue a national visa to
allow Mahmoudi’s son to enter the country. The Portugese
expected the PM to be furious if he discovered the Swiss action
regarding his son.

¶7. (C/NF) Comment: Discussions with the Swiss Charge revealed a

TRIPOLI 00000763 002.2 OF 002

disconnect between Bern and its embassy in Tripoli. While the
Swiss Government seems to be building alliances at the Deputy
Foreign Minister level to advocate on its behalf, it is
rendering the Swiss Embassy weak and vulnerable by keeping the
Charge uninformed. Likewise, the continued Swiss mishandling of
visa issues, especially when they involve influential regime
figures, will make it that much more difficult for the Swiss to
achieve a swift and positive resolution. End Comment.

CRETZ


Posted in: LibyaPortugalSwitzerlandWikiLeaks 

4 Comments to “WikiLeaks: Swiss Citizens Back in Libyan Custody”

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  4. avatar Elisabeth says:

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