American Alleges Assault By UAE Sheik

Silvano Orsi talks about his alleged assault at his family's home in Rochester, N.Y., Tuesday April 4, 2006. Out of work for over two years, Orsi walks with a limp and suffers nightmares, the result of what he calls an unprovoked assault in a five-star Swiss hotel by a tipsy Arab sheik whose brother is now ruler of the United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/David Duprey) AP Photo

Almost 10 years after embarking on a corporate career in Europe, Silvano Orsi is back living with his parents, only rarely leaving their home to pick up drugs at the pharmacy or meet a friend for coffee.

Out of work for more than two years, the former Swisscom AG executive walks with a limp and suffers nightmares, the result of what he calls an unprovoked assault in a five-star Swiss hotel by a tipsy Arab sheik whose brother is now ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

"I didn't do anything to instigate this, this was a hate crime," Orsi said as an investigating magistrate in Geneva edges toward deciding whether to recommend a criminal trial. "I will never swallow what he's done to me. It doesn't matter who he is."

Orsi said he had no idea who Sheik Fallah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was before they met on the evening of Aug. 19, 2003. In fact, he didn't learn his identity, he said, until he stumbled bloodied and bruised to the hotel reception desk and pleaded with staff to call the police.

At a closed-door hearing in March, the sheik acknowledged they got into a heated scuffle when he overheard someone remark that "this sheik is gay." But he insisted he never struck Orsi, either with his fists or his belt, nor arranged to pay him $13,000 in hush money.

Orsi, a son of Italian immigrants who grew up in suburban Rochester, said he was sipping fruit juice while chatting in English and Italian with a Saudi friend near the bar at the posh La Reserve hotel when a passer-by dressed in casual shirt and jeans asked where he was from.

The stranger offered him something to drink and Orsi declined, saying he didn't drink alcohol, yet the man soon sent over a bottle of Dom Perignon. Orsi said he politely waved his thanks but left the champagne unopened on the table because he was worried the offer was a ploy to force a confrontation.

A quarter-hour later, Orsi alleged, the man suddenly came up behind him, jostled his glasses, sat in his lap and tried to kiss and fondle him. When Orsi protested, he maintained the man became violently angry, threw him to the floor, punched and stomped him, smashed his glasses underfoot, then removed his belt and whipped him with the metal buckle.

All the time, Orsi said his attacker was yelling abuse, saying at one point that "no stupid American or Italian is going to tell me what to do!"
  • Sean Alfano

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