By Areej Haddad.
Tripoli, 23 May 2013:
At a press conference this evening, Justice Minister Salah Al-Marghani said a public prosecutor was being . . .[restrict]held illegally in Tripoli’s Mitiga jail and likened those detaining him to Abdallah Senussi and Qaddafi’s internal security henchmen.
The prosecutor, whom he did not name, is Taha Bara, former spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. He has been held, along with Khoms Congressman Akram Al-Janin and the Investment Undersecretary at the Ministry of Oil, since 16 May, supposedly on suspicion of immoral activities including alcohol offences. Pictures of the three men in detention have circulated on Facebook.
Marghani’s statement contradicts earlier reports that Bara had been released after alcohol tests on him proved negative.
Marghani said that the aim of those holding him and the two others was to control and strike fear in the judiciary. He said that in Qaddaffi’s time people such as Abdullah Senusssi and his cohorts used their power in ways that caused the judiciary to fear them. It must not be allowed to happen again in the new Libya.
In a separate protest today against the detention of Janin, a group of Khoms thuwar stormed the local power station and seized five of the plant’s technicians, forcing them to cut off electricity supplies to the south of Libya, as well as separate the east and west network power supplies.
Khoms Local Council has already condemned the seizure of Janin, demanding his release and an explanation of the circumstances that led to his arrest.
The minister meanwhile this evening demanded that those responsible abide by the law and not repeat the past. They had exceeded their “accepted security duties, and interfered in the judiciary”, which they had no right to do.
The detention of the prosecutor at the Mitiga jail, not under his ministry’s control, was illegal, stated Marghani. Public prosecutors, he said, had special rights and their arrest required consent from the Supreme Judicial Council. Furthermore, all detentions over 48 hours required approval by the Supreme Judicial Council. In failing to request an arrest warrant, the group had taken the law into their own hands, thus casting aside state sovereignty and the will of the people. The ministry, he said, had requested the man’s release but this has been rejected.
The group was “breaking the law”, Marghani declared, claiming he had twice called on the Attorney General to take legal action against the individuals involved.
Marghani, said that the pictures of the three men being held, with their heads shaved and signs of possible beatings, indicated they were being treated badly. This amounted to human rights abuses punishable under law.
A post dated 17 May apparently on the Facebook page of the Tripoli branch of the Supreme Security Council (SSC), headed by Hashim Bishr, gives the positions of the detained but not their names.
“The involved officials were the GNC member for the Libyan town of Khoms, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Oil for investment, who is also a founding member of Alassema TV Channel Board of Directors and at the same time the house owner, a public prosecutor and former spokesman of the former Attorney General’s Office.”
The statement describes the alleged chain of events leading up to detention of the officials, and says that a house located in the Tripoli’s Zenata district, where the incident occurred had “been under suspicion for a while for the possibility of being used as a den for prostitution because of the number of girls frequenting the place.”
According to the post, the story started after a vehicle leaving the house, driven by a female, crashed into a neighbour’s vehicle. Local residents gathered, some of whom were armed, demanding the house be vacated and the neighbour be compensate for damages to his car. “At that point, the official came out of the house and negotiated with some of the neighbours to have the damaged car repaired.”
Whilst negotiating, “neighbours noticed that the official was under the influence of alcohol and so was the man who was accompanying (him), believed to have been a GNC member. Thus verbal argument erupted between the two sides”, reads the post.
The statement goes on to explain: “A public prosecutor arrived at the scene claiming that he had been invited to dinner at the house by his GNC member friend, but in view of the tension and mayhem that was taking place at the time, the public prosecutor tried his best to calm down the situation and ease tension. Amidst chaos and mayhem, while warning gunshots were also fired in the air, the official’s house got stormed and officials were beaten up. Photos using mobile phones were also taken by some of the intruders.”
Security units, specifically “the first support battalion unit, the special deterrent unit and one of the disciplinary force units”, then intervened after learning that officials were involved in the altercation. A police report was filed, “samples” were taken from the accused to be analysed, and legal proceedings started with the “relevant authorities”.
The post does not cite the offences committed, does not specify where the men were transferred, nor does it say who the relevant authorities are. It ends by stating that further information about the case will be divulged in order to “cut out rumours . . . as well as to be fair and just to anyone whose reputation has been damaged publicly or privately”.
In Marghani’s view, the actions surrounding the detention of the “prosecutor and the member of Congress” challenge judicial powers, rule of law and Libya’s elected legislature.