Tripoli, 14 April:
Libyan prisoners held in Guantanamo prison will be returned home to Libya soon according to Minister of Foreign Affairs . . .[restrict]Ashour Ben Khayal. He added that a number of contacts had also been made with other countries holding Libyan prisoners to arrange their release, including Lebanon.
However, the government’s prime efforts in relation to Libyan prisoners abroad were, he said, focused primarily on stopping the execution of a number of Libyans held in Iraq who had been sentenced to death.
Ben Khayal was speaking in an interview with Press Solidarity News Agency.
He said that an agreement to exchange prisoners had been presented to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry by the Libyan Justice Minister, Ali Humaida Ashour, who had also met with his Iraqi counterpart.
The two met during the Arab summit in Baghdad at the end of last month.
Ben Khayal indicated that now that an appropriate political climate had been created, the matter was reaching a conclusion and was awaiting a final study and completion by the Iraqi side.
Initially, it was reported in Baghdad that some 200 Libyans were being held in the country. However, following Ashour’s visit, the figure being put out by the Libyan Ministry of Justice is 22, of whom six have been sentenced to death for terrorist activities.
Two of these have been executed and four are on death row according to Taha Shahshouki of the NGO campaigning on behalf of Libyan prisoners abroad.
As to numbers still being held at Guantanamo, the figure is thought to be four, possibly five. It is thought highly unlikely, however, that the Americans will release into Libyan custody the man known as Abu Faraj al-Libbi. From 2003 until his capture in 2005 by Pakistani security forces, was regarded as the third most important member of Al-Qaeda. Tripoli-born, his real name is said to Mustafa al-‘Uzaybi.
As of this month he has been held at Guantanamo for five years and seven months.
For Shakshuki’s group, the main focus is Tunisia. According to him, there are 340 Libyans currently in jail there, compared to 25 in Egypt and four in Lebanon. On the latter, three, Shakshuki said, were held on drugs smuggling charges of whom one is expected to be released soon, and the fourth was being held on arms charges and making threats.
The overwhelming bulk of those jailed in Tunisia, “80 percent”, he said, were likewise charged with drugs offenses. Almost all of them, he added, were under 30 years of age.