By Libya Herald Staff.
Tripoli, 18 June 2014:
Justice Minister Salah Marghani has demanded the return of Islamist militia . . .[restrict]leader Ahmed Bukhtallah who was seized in Benghazi by US Special Forces on Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Prime Ministry this afternoon, Marghani, who was accompanied by spokesman for the Foreign Ministry Said Al-Aswad, told journalists that Bukhatallah should be handed over by the US because he was wanted by Libyan authorities.
The Justice Minister said Bukhatallah was being sought in connection with the September 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic premises in Benghazi in which Amercian Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other American citizens died.He added that Bukhatallah had also been charged in relation to “a number of other cases” but did not specify what these cases were.
Aswad called on US authorities to guarantee Bukhatallah his legal and humanitarian rights and said the Foreign Minisrty had instructed the Libyan embassy in Washington to Bukhatallah’s situation and begin proceedings with a view to his extradition.
When asked how Libya could hope to sentence Bukhatallah with Benghazi’s legal system in disarray, Marghani responded: “We need to respect our courts”.
Similarly, when asked why Libyan authorities had not arrested Bukhatallah themselves, he said the security situation in Benghazi had made such a move impossible. He added that the justice apparatus had been waiting for the Islamist commander to turn himself in.
Marghani said the government had had no prior warning of the US special forces’ operation and had no further information as to the circumstances of Bukhatallah’s capture.
Since the news broke yesterday in the in the Washington Post, no hard details relating to Bukhatallah’s capture have emerged.
A source in Benghazi told the Libya Herald he was seized in the south east of the city and that Bukhatallah’s neighbours had claimed he was travelling to have dinner with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood when he was taken.
A source within Benghazi Islamist circles told this paper that those close to Bukhatallah were saying he had been betrayed by a member of his own entourage and believed that he had then taken to a ship anchored close to the shore. The same source said the Islamist leader had been taken by local forces not on Sunday evening but on Monday.
He himself believed Bukhatallah’s arrest would have little impact on the current situation in Benghazi and that his small, insular group had little influence. He added that Bukhtallah had claimed to him personally that he had not had any involvement in the 11 September attacks on the US consulate two years ago.