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Cablegate: Embassy Tripoli

VZCZCXRO0250
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTRO #0112 0410815
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 100815Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5779
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6337

C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 00011

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR/CE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/10/2020

TAGS: PREL PHUM CVIS LY SZ

REF: Tripoli 91

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

1. (C) Summary: Swiss businessman Rachid Hamdani received a "not guilty" verdict from a Libyan tax court on February 7, officially clearing him of all legal charges levied against him by the GOL. The verdict came a day after Max Goeldi, the other Swiss businessman held in Libya since July 2007, was fined 1000 Libyan Dinar (approximately US$801) for tax violations. Now that all charges against Hamdani have been lifted, the Swiss Embassy and Hamdani's Libyan lawyer are working to determine what other "conditions" must be fulfilled in order for Hamdani to leave the country. Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto said that as soon as the GOL allows the two Swiss businessmen to depart, Switzerland will be ready to begin issuing visas as a first step in "normalizing" the relationship. End Summary.

2.(C) On February 7, a Libyan tax court issued a "not guilty" verdict to Rachid Hamdani, one of two Swiss businessmen detained in Libya since July 2007. Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarotto confirmed that following Hamdani's successful January 27 appeal in the Immigration Court (reftel), Hamdani is officially cleared of all legal charges the Libyan government has held against him. The Swiss Embassy and Hamdani's Libyan lawyer are working to determine what other "conditions" must be fulfilled in order for Hamdani to leave the country, as the GOL is still holding Hamdani's passport.

3.(C) The Hamdani verdict came a day after the same Libyan tax court fined the other Swiss businessman, Max Goeldi, 1000 Libyan Dinar (approximately US$801) for violating Libyan tax laws. Lazarotto said that Goeldi does not intend to appeal that decision. He reported that Goeldi's appeals trial before the immigration court, which was postponed for unclear reasons last week, had been rescheduled for this Thursday, February 11.

4.(C) Lazarotto noted that the political track continues to move forward in Bern. According to Lazarotto, the Libyans and Swiss have been in "continuous talks" via Germany over the past few weeks. While they have not yet achieved resolution on all points of disagreement, they are slowly moving toward normalization. One sign of progress is that the Libyans issued the new Swiss Vice Consul a two-year, multiple entry visa and a residency permit. Lazarotto believes that the Libyans want to give Switzerland the capacity to issue visas as soon as normalization is achieved. The first piece of normalization will be the visa policy, and the Swiss are ready to begin issuing Schengen visas as soon as the Swiss businessmen are allowed to leave the country and an agreement is signed. Official and working visas will be their first priority issuances. They expect to begin processing 40 visa applications per day and to gradually increase to the previous average of 70-80 applications per day.

5.(C) Comment: Lazarotto's latest comments suggest that the Swiss are anxious to end the Swiss businessmen saga and have directly mapped out a solution for the Libyans -- release the two Swiss and the visa hold will be lifted. The series of positive court rulings over the last few weeks indicate that the Libyans are willing to work within those parameters. Now that the GOL has no legal reason to keep Hamdani in the country, the coming days will tell whether Libya intends to fulfill its end of the bargain. End Comment. CRETZ

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