Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Man beaten by sheikh sues Swiss

A man who claims he was whipped by a UAE sheikh is taking Switzerland to the European Court of Human Rights after Swiss courts acquitted his attacker.

Silvano Orsi says Sheikh Falah al-Nahyan used a belt to beat him after he rejected a gift of a bottle of champagne at a hotel in Geneva in 2003.

He was initially convicted of actual bodily harm, but was acquitted by Switzerland's highest court last month.

Mr Orsi says the later ruling infringed his human rights and was a cover-up.

Last year, Sheikh Falah, the brother of UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was found guilty of the attack on Mr Orsi at the La Reserve hotel and ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs (£4,930, $9,820).

But in October, his lawyers successfully argued at the Swiss Federal Tribunal that under Swiss law the offence of actual bodily harm could only be proved if it was carried out with a "dangerous object".

The metal-buckled belt their client used to whip Mr Orsi did not qualify and so the conviction was overturned, Mr Orsi said.

At the time of the incident it was reported that Sheikh Falah's lawyers had said it happened because their client was offended by Mr Orsi's suggestion that the champagne was a sexual advance.

Mr Orsi, a US citizen, argues that the Federal Tribunal's verdict breached his human rights, guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights, which Switzerland has ratified.

He says that he was the victim of global politics, because neither the US or Swiss governments wanted to annoy the United Arab Emirates.

"They are demonstrating their apparent willingness to ignore my human rights as an American in order to protect the newly proposed US-UAE 123 nuclear technology agreement that is currently before the US Congress," Mr Orsi told the BBC.

Sheikh Falah could not immediately be reached for comment. He has maintained his innocence in the past.

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