By George Grant and Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 10 December:
The National Congress is due to vote tomorrow on whether Ashour Shuwail can . . .[restrict]assume his position as Interior Minister before being cleared by the Supreme Court as fit for office.
The move follows a heated debate on his case that took place in Congress yesterday, which culminated in a brawl between two congressmen on opposing sides of the argument.
Fighting broke out after Ibrahim Gheriani, who leads the National Forces Alliance in Congress, reacted “very badly” when his discourse was interrupted by Akram Jenin, an independent Congressman for Khoms.
“Gheriani was talking in a very loud voice, prompting Jenin to intervene from his location in the seats opposite to protest against Gheriani’s conduct”, a source who witnessed the incident told the Libya Herald.
“The two Congress members carried on arguing to the point that Jenin hit the table angrily demanding Gheriani to be silent. At that point, Gheriani crossed the hall and punched him in the face, causing him to bleed. They got engaged in a fight until other Congress members intervened to break them up.”
Gheriani apologised for his conduct shortly afterwards, but calls have now been voiced from inside the NFA for his dismissal as leader.
At the heart of the debate over Shuwail is a legal argument over whether Congress has the power to allow him to assume office before the Supreme Court issues its verdict or not.
Shuwail was disbarred from office by the Integrity Commission on 13 November, but was cleared on appeal last Monday. Shortly afterwards, National Congress Spokesman Omar Hmaidan said that Congress looked forward to Shuwail being sworn in by them, prompting a note from the Integrity Commission reminding the legislative body that no oath of office could be taken until all legal proceedings against him had been concluded.
The Commission then launched its own appeal against the appeal court’s ruling, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
“There are two very clear and competing legal opinions”, said Congressman Suleiman Zubi, a former judge from Benghazi. “One says that it is possible for Shuwail to be sworn in even before the court concludes its case, and the other argument says that he cannot start his work until the Supreme Court has made its decision.
“The National Congress will decide which is correct, and we hope to vote on this matter tomorrow. It was this problem that we were all shouting about yesterday”, Zubi added.
Regardless of whether Shuwail is permitted to take up his post before the Supreme Court verdict or not, should the court decide against him he will in all probability be compelled to resign.
A final decision on the Shuwail’s eligibility should be made by the Supreme Court in the next three weeks.