Twist surfaces in fatal crash involving Swiss Embassy vehicle
A man identified by Swiss media as a former domestic servant to one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons was involved in a fatal accident while driving a Swiss Embassy vehicle in Washington, authorities said.
Kamal Mortada, 39, was named by the Swiss weekly Weltwoche as one of two servants beaten in 2008 in Switzerland by Hannibal Gadhafi, a son of the recently ousted Libyan strongman. The arrests of Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife on assault charges strained relations between the countries.
It was not clear what Mortada was doing in Washington. A Swiss Embassy spokesman identified him only as a "local employee" of the embassy and declined to provide further details, citing privacy concerns.
The accident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. on Oct. 7. According to an accident report, Mortada was turning an SUV onto Connecticut Avenue near the National Zoo when he struck and killed Trudith Rishikof, 65, of Washington, who was in a crosswalk and had the right-of-way. Mortada has not been charged, and the accident remains under investigation.
"This was a tragic accident and has been deemed an accident by law enforcement," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland said she didn't believe the driver was covered by any form of diplomatic immunity.
The accident report listed the embassy as Mortada's home address and as the owner of the vehicle.
"In view of the ongoing investigation by the responsible local authorities, the embassy cannot provide further details on the accident," embassy spokesman Norbert Baerlocher wrote in a statement emailed Friday. "For reasons of privacy protection, the embassy is not providing any further information on the local employee."
Mortada had a cellphone, according to the accident report, and police were looking into whether he was distracted. There was no indication he had been drinking, the report said, and test results were pending. He was wearing a seatbelt and was not injured.
Rishikof died at a hospital. There was no indication she was impaired at the time of the accident.
"The embassy expresses its heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased," Baerlocher said.
Mortada was one of two servants who reported to police that they were beaten by Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife, Aline, Weltwoche reported.
The Gadhafis were freed on bail two days after their arrests, but the episode prompted a series of diplomatic recriminations that included Libya recalling some of its diplomats from Switzerland, suspending the issuing of visas for Swiss citizens and detaining two Swiss businessmen.
Charges against the Gadhafis were later dropped, and the Swiss government apologized for the arrests.
Public records available in the United States revealed scant information about Mortada, and the embassy declined to provide details about his nationality or citizenship. He had a District of Columbia driver's license. A cellphone listed for him on the accident report was disconnected.
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