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Cablegate: Swiss in Libya: Charge Requests Eu, Us Presence at Court Hearing

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OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHTRO #0910/01 3200929
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 160929Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5471
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6020

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000910

NOFORN SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/MAG AND EUR/CE E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SZ LY

SUBJECT: SWISS IN LIBYA: CHARGE REQUESTS EU, US PRESENCE AT COURT HEARING REF: A) TRIPOLI 901; B) STATE 117546; C) TRIPOLI 832 TRIPOLI 00000910 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 is making the rounds at EU embassies in Tripoli, in an attempt to garner a quorum of ambassadors to attend the upcoming trial of two Swiss citizens. The Italian, British, and French embassies report that they are waiting on official guidance from their respective capitals before responding to the Swiss request. The Italian Embassy believes the matter will most likely be referred to Brussels for a decision. The trial date has not yet been set, but the Libyans have already indicated that the hearing may be further delayed, insisting that the detained Swiss move out of the Swiss Embassy to another location in Tripoli in order to receive the GOL's official summons. The Swiss Embassy itself has not yet received required GOL permission to attend the trial, whenever it occurs. Post thanks the Department for its quick response to our request for guidance (Refs A, B). Given EU hesitancy and GOL sensitivities, we do not currently plan to send a representative to the initial court hearing. End Summary.

SWISS CHARGE REQUESTS EU, US PRESENCE AT COURT HEARING

2.(S/NF) Swiss Charge d'Affaires, Stefano Lazarotto, told Pol/Econ Chief November 15 that he was in the process of calling on EU embassies in Tripoli to request the presence of EU ambassadors at the court hearing of detained Swiss citizens, Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani. [Note: Lazarotto requested the Ambassador's attendance during a meeting November 9 (Ref A).] He said that the Spanish and Dutch ambassadors had already pledged to attend (we have not yet been able to confirm this with those two embassies). Although Lazarotto extended the request to the Italian, British, and French ambassadors on November 13, he said that none of them had officially responded yet. According to Lazarotto, the British ambassador said that current political "sensitivities" in the UK-Libyan relationship may prevent a public UK display of support. The French DCM told Pol/Econ Chief November 15 that he was awaiting an official response from Paris, which he did not expect to receive until after the French weekend. "If the hearing takes place before we have a response, then of course, we cannot attend," he stated.

EU AMBASSADORS WILL LIKELY REFER REQUEST TO BRUSSELS

3.(S/NF) In a separate November 15 meeting with Pol/Econ Chief, Italian xxxxxxxxxxxx confirmed that Lazarotto had approached the Italian ambassador with the request that he attend the court hearing. xxxxxxxxxxxx noted that he was aware that the Swiss had also approached the Spanish, French, and British ambassadors. He said that while he did not expect any of the ambassadors to attend in their national capacities, he believed they would each recommend that their governments refer the matter to Brussels for a decision. He asserted that the Spanish ambassador could not attend the hearing in Spain's capacity as EU President without an official mandate from Brussels. If the Spanish ambassador were to attend, xxxxxxxxxxxx noted, then he would be representing Spain alone. xxxxxxxxxxxx said that a decision from Brussels would take some time, hinting that he did not anticipate an EU presence at the hearing.

4.(S/NF) xxxxxxxxxxxx explained that the EU nations were already experiencing blowback from the Libyans for Switzerland's recent, unilateral vetoes on Schengen visa approvals for high-profile Libyan travelers, such as Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi (Ref C). He said that a number of EU ambassadors, including the Italian, had been summoned to the MFA November 15 for a meeting to discuss the Schengen visa "situation." xxxxxxxxxxxx lamented that the GOL continued to "deliberately" misunderstand the Schengen visa approval process, in spite of numerous clarifications from EU embassies here. The Europeans were increasingly concerned and angry by the Swiss use of the veto for political purposes for a system the former claimed was to be based solely on opposition on security grounds. xxxxxxxxxxxx said that he expected the MFA to attempt to urge the EU ambassadors to counteract Schengen visa refusals from the Swiss in some way.

GOL FURTHER COMPLICATES SWISS ISSUE

5.(S/NF) To further complicate the situation, the GOL announced publicly November 12 that the detained Swiss must move out of the Swiss Embassy in order to be served a court summons. Lazarotto confirmed that the demand had been made privately as well, causing the detained Swiss deep distress and concern about the consequences of leaving embassy environs. "Of course, the decision is theirs," Lazarotto commented, referring to Goeldi and Hamdani. "The Embassy cannot tell them what to do or advise them not to move out," Lazarotto stated. He suspected that the Libyans would eventually set a court date, irrespective of TRIPOLI 00000910 002.2 OF 002 whether Goeldi and Hamdani moved away from the Embassy, in order to avoid "losing prestige" or "face" in the international arena. According to his analysis, the latest GOL demand is a pressure tactic designed to intimidate the Swiss. Lazarotto explained that the Swiss citizens were working with a local lawyer and that the GOL could simply deliver the summons to him vice the Swiss Embassy. He said that the MFA had told him to expect a meeting on November 15 to discuss the situation. He believed the GOL would likely argue that the Swiss Embassy should step aside and let the businessmen confront the charges as individuals.

SWISS WAITING ON PERMISSION TO ATTEND TRIAL

6.(S/NF) In spite of Lazarotto's efforts to gather a group of ambassadors to attend the court hearing, the Swiss Embassy does not yet, itself, have the required permission to be present. Lazarotto explained that he had only recently asked the MFA to grant him access to the courtroom and said that he "hoped" he would be allowed access. However, he was not optimistic that third-country ambassadors would be permitted into the courtroom -- or even into the courthouse itself (location still to be determined). When asked how he envisioned the scene at the courthouse if the various ambassadors did show up, Lazarotto said that he hoped they could at least stand outside the courthouse, if not inside, in a show of solidarity with the Swiss.

7.(S/NF) Lazarotto again thanked the USG for its support and conveyed that he had advised Bern to remain discreet regarding the US role in the GOL's release of the Swiss. Pol/Econ Chief advised him that the Ambassador would not attend the court hearing due to the sensitive nature of our role in the matter. Lazarotto empathized and expressed his confidence that the EU nations would stand in support of the Swiss cause.

8.(S/NF) Comment: The Swiss have alienated the very European governments they are now trying to recruit for support, through their initial insistence on managing the situation alone, now compounded by their continued application of the Schengen veto without consultation or communication with European partners (an act that is impacting larger EU interests in Libya). The Italians, French, and British are unlikely to send their ambassadors -- or representation at any level -- to the court hearing, and an EU mandate for the Spanish ambassador to attend as the representative of the EU Presidency may be long in coming. The Swiss in Tripoli, however, are under a different impression. Given EU hesitancy on the matter, Post does not currently plan to send a representative to the court hearing. Post thanks the Department for its quick response to our request. End comment. CRETZ

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