Apr 12, 2010 – 19:11
Image Caption: The newspaper’s lawyer Marc Hassberger told media that the court had ruled the mugshots were illegal (Keystone)
A tribunal has ruled a Swiss newspaper’s publication of police mugshots of the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was illegal.
But the Geneva court rejected a claim for compensation by Hannibal Gaddafi, in a ruling made public on Monday.
The Tribune de Genève newspaper printed the photos of Hannibal Gaddafi in September 2009, 14 months after he was detained with his wife Aline for allegedly abusing their staff in a Geneva hotel.
Hannibal Gaddafi then filed a civil lawsuit for breaching legal protection of his personal in December, demanding SFr100,000 $95,000). He sued the canton Geneva, the Tribune de Genève newspaper and one of the paper’s journalists.
The tribunal said the newspaper should not have published the photos, but noted that while it was a mistake, the newspaper’s intention was to inform and not cause harm.
The newspaper will be required to publish the ruling in its printed edition and on its website. The canton of Geneva must also put the tribunal ruling on its website.
Three-quarters of the costs of the publication of the notices are to be assumed by the cantonal authorities and the remainder by the newspaper.
However the tribunal rejected Hannibal Gaddafi’s compensation claim, with the judge noting that the publication of the judgment was enough to repair the damage caused.
After the lawsuit was filed, Hannibal commented that he no longer wanted financial compensation and preferred to have an international tribunal hear his case.
Responding to Monday’s ruling, the paper’s editor Pierre Ruetschi said he had taken note of the decision, adding that it was delivered with “very great celerity within a heavy and difficult political context”.
Interviewed by Swiss radio he did not say whether the newspaper would lodge an appeal but noted that it “would not do anything that could harm the Swiss hostage” Max Göldi who is serving time in a Libyan jail for visa violations.
Ruetschi had earlier told swissinfo.ch that he had published the photos for legitimate journalistic purposes.
For its part, the canton Geneva said it regretted that the mugshots had been published and was prepared to pay compensation. The authorities said a cantonal employee seemed to have been responsible for passing the photos to the newspaper.
The canton added that although it did not want to abdicate its responsibility, the main role had been played by the newspaper, which it said was solely responsible for taking the decision to print the photo. Last month a lawyer for the cantonal government, David Lachat, said a quick resolution of the case would help resolve the ongoing crisis between Switzerland and Libya.
The ruling by the Geneva justice authorities can still be subject to an appeal within a month.
Parallel to the civil proceedings, a criminal investigation has been opened to find out who leaked the photos.
Relations between Switzerland and Libya have been strained ever since the arrest, with Libya taking a number of retaliatory measures against Switzerland.
Libya demanded an apology for the arrest and imposed economic measures against Switzerland, including closing Swiss companies, stopping flights, halting oil exports to Switzerland and withdrawing deposits from Swiss banks in protest.
It also detained two Swiss nationals, one of whom, Max Göldi, is currently serving a four-month prison sentence on visa violation charges.
swissinfo.ch and agencies