Call Girls Drop Charges Against Nephew of Libya's Qaddafi

Two call girls have dropped assault charges against the nephew of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said Monday.

The case against Mohammed al-Sanussi, 26, was brought by Karen Etchebery, 21, and Patricia Bech, 25, who allege they were beaten up by al-Sanussi at his London home on Nov. 17. The women said in court documents the attack occurred after they tried to leave when a dispute over money erupted. Sanussi was arrested after police went to his London house.

The case began three weeks ago in London's Blackfriars court but the judge issued a gag order that shielded al-Sanussi's nationality and all but silenced any coverage of the case. Telephone calls to Judge David Martineau on the reason behind the gag order were not immediately returned on Monday.

Al-Sanussi's father, Abdullah, is the head of Libya's intelligence service and Qaddafi's brother-in-law.

The Libyan government asked the Foreign Office to pass on their "concerns" to prosecutors, according to a British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Libyan officials also allegedly raised the matter during former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's trip to Tripoli when a major gas deal was announced.

"The Libyans raised the case with the Foreign Office and wanted us to pass their concerns to director of public prosecutions," the British government official told The Associated Press, refusing to discuss the contents of the letter sent in July. "It was routine."

The official said the British government would not have interfered in the case.

A spokesman for the Libyan government in London declined to comment.

During the trial, prosecutors accused al-Sanussi of punching Etchebery in the face, causing her "sustained complex fractures of the skull', and bruising Bech. Etchebery said in court testimony that Sanussi hit her in the face. "I don't think that because somebody pays me to be there they can hit me in the face," she said in court documents.

But Martineau told the jury the case was being dropped after the women changed their minds about giving evidence.

"The defendant is somewhat fortunate," Martineau said during the trial.

Etchebery claimed she had been followed shortly after going to police.

"I withdrew from the case because I was scared," she told the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail newspapers.

Al-Sanussi's defense lawyers showed the court a video where the two women were allegedly captured discussing the sexual services they offered. The video was taken in March — months after the alleged incident. It was unclear who made the film.

"The attitude of both girls is that they do not wish to continue giving evidence. The change in stance appears to have arisen at the point where they were made aware that a film had been made," prosecutor Selvaraju Ramasamy said.