Tripoli, 19 December:
Six prominent Islamist leaders have publicly denied their involvement in the assassination of senior security officers in Benghazi, following a report by the Libya Herald on Sunday.
The group have alleged a conspiracy against them intended to undermine the 17 February revolution.
Following last week’s arrest of a suspect in the assassinations, a senior police officer in Benghazi informed the Libya Herald that the man had implicated as many as seven leading Islamists, and provided the names of six of them.
The officer stressed, however, that the man’s testimony would not be taken as proof of the aforementioned individuals’ involvement in the killings, and that further investigations would be required.
Since the article was published, it has been translated into Arabic and widely disseminated on Facebook and elsewhere, whilst the names of others not mentioned by the Libya Herald have also been inserted.
In a telephone conversation with a member of the 17 February Brigade, subsequently published on the latter’s Facebook page, Al-Gharabi said he “unequivocally denied” the allegations against him “regarding his relationship with the events of the bloody attack witnessed in Benghazi early last Sunday”.
Gharabi declared himself “amazed at the same time by the talk of those who call themselves journalists for links to these events and their determination to involve his name with a number of his comrades in them”.
He added that if “a path for dialogue” could not be found in order to “reduce these rumours”, then he would “resort to the judiciary to take his rights from those who cited his name in these unfortunate events.”
Speaking from Turkey, Ismael Sallabi also denied his involvement in the assassinations and condemned the publication of his name in that context. Sources have informed this paper that Sallabi has also requested his brother, the prominent Islamist cleric Ali Sallabi, to go to the police to discuss the matter.
“All of those named in connection with that article are extremely angry”, said Ibrahim El-Makas, of Benghazi-based Al-Kalima newspaper.”
In addition to vigorously denying having anything to do with the case, all of the six have also complained that many Libyans are now viewing them as guilty by association.
The Benghazi police department has not officially released any names in connection with the case.
In a television interview on Libya Hurra published yesterday, Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail refused to confirm or deny specific allegations when asked who he believed the suspects were, but said he was hopeful of success in resolving the matter.
For its part, the Libya Herald re-emphasises that as a free and independent news outlet, it has a responsibility to present the news in an impartial and timely manner.
The paper has not made specific allegations against any individual, reporting only that a source inside the Benghazi police department had provided the aforementioned names, and stressing that this in itself did not constitute proof of responsibility.