Tripoli, 16 August 2013:
Three Belarusians and one Russian who were sentenced to ten years’ hard labour by a military . . .[restrict]court have, along with 19 Ukrainians, had their sentences cancelled.
Another Russian said to have coordinated the group, who was given life imprisonment, also had his sentence cancelled.
The foreign nationals were found guilty of helping to repair military installations that were intended to be used against NATO and the Libyan Air Force during the revolution. They were sentenced by a military court in June last year but their governments have been appealing the decision and demanding that the cases be heard in a civilian court.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, the defendants will now have their cases transferred to the civilian court.
“They have now been moved to the category of detainees, and the whole process will start from the beginning,” a Russian diplomatic source told the Libya Herald, “we are very satisfied that Libya has become a democratic state and will stop trying civilians in military courts.” He added that he hoped the civil courts would be impartial.
According to the Libyan news agency LANA today, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that it plans to send a delegation to Tripoli for talks with Libyan officials on the two Russians detainees. Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted saying today that it was not known the the charges to be faced by the two would be the same.
The defendants are being held in a prison outside Tripoli, understood to be in Zintan.
Senior Russian and Belarusian sources have confirmed to the Libya Herald that the conditions of the prisoners is “not bad” and an improvement on the facility in which they were previously held. A Belarusian source said that there had been no obstacles in embassy staff speaking to or visiting the prisoners.
The defendants have always maintained that they were oil field workers. The Ukrainian ambassador, Mykola Nahorny, however, said that credible information suggested that they had been forced to work on military radars at gunpoint during the revolution. [/restrict]