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Video emerges of Swiss hostages in Pakistan

A video has emerged showing a Swiss couple kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan nearly four months ago, flanked by four masked gunmen pointing rifles at their heads.

In the video, which has been posted on YouTube, the man holds up a Pakistani newspaper dated September 15th and the couple speak Swiss German.

Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, appear in relatively good health and call on the Pakistani and Swiss governments to give into the demands of their hostage takers.

Their faces appear to match pictures of the couple that were widely circulated after their kidnapping on July 1st. They speak calmly, but kneel before four masked men brandishing their guns at their heads.

Pakistani think-tank, the FATA Research Centre, on its website posted links to the videos on YouTube, without saying how it had obtained the video.

The organisation, which is dedicated to research on Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border where the Taliban and Al-Qaeda allies have bases, was not immediately reachable for comment.

The Swiss foreign ministry did not wish to comment when contacted by AFP, saying only that a crisis group was still working for the release of their two nationals.

The couple were snatched while driving through Baluchistan — a sparsely-populated southwestern province bordering Iran and Afghanistan that attracts few tourists due to separatist violence and Taliban activity.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the abduction in July, demanding that they be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuro-scientist sentenced in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan.

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PAKISTAN

Swiss refuse graft probe of Pakistan’s leader

Swiss prosecutors announced Friday that they had refused to reopen a probe into alleged corruption in the 1990s by current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto.

Swiss refuse graft probe of Pakistan's leader
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. Photo: AFP

Prosecutors in Geneva said that the decision was taken on February 4 this year, and that they had only opted to make it public as a result of street protests in Pakistan.

They declined to comment in detail, but the Swiss news portal 20minutes.ch published photographs of anti-Zardari protestors burning Switzerland's flag at a rally in Pakistan.

Zardari and Bhutto were alleged to have siphoned $12 million in state cash in the 1990s, when he was a government minister and she was premier.

Bhutto lost office in 1996, and a year later Pakistan made a formal request for Swiss legal help in a probe of the couple and Bhutto's mother Nusrat Bhutto.

Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 1997, returning in 2007, only to be assassinated in a bomb attack on an election rally the same year.

Weeks before Bhutto was killed, Pakistan had withdrawn its request for help from the Swiss, and Geneva investigators formally closed their side of the probe in 2008.

Zardari, meanwhile, was arrested in Pakistan on graft charges after his wife's government fell, before being freed in 2004, going into exile in the United Arab Emirates, then returning after Bhutto's death.

He was elected president in 2008.

In November 2012, however, Pakistan's government renewed its request for Swiss legal assistance after being ordered to do so by its own supreme court.

Geneva prosecutors underlined Friday that no new evidence had emerged since the case was dropped in 2008, meaning they could not reopen the investigation.

In addition, the fact that the alleged offences took place more than 15 years ago meant that the statute of limitations had expired, they said.

They also complained about mixed messages from Pakistan.

Just a month after filing the renewed request, Pakistan sent them a letter stating that the call for a revived probe was linked to domestic politics and that there was no need to heed it.

That amounted to abuse of the legal system, prosecutors said.

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