By Nigel Ash
Tripoli, 22 April 2013
The jailed editor of the newspaper Ummah, Amara Hassan Al-Khatabi, has been released on bail.
According to . . .[restrict]an AFP report, Khatabi was freed after a hearing today when he was ordered to post bail of LD 500 and surrender his passport. Defence lawyer Ramadan Salem said that a new hearing had been set for 23 June, at which Khatabi would challenge the “constitutionality” of Law 195, which has been used to bring the case against him.
The editor was arrested almost four months ago and charged under the Qaddafi-era law, with defaming and insulting the judiciary. He had published a list of 87 judges whom he declared were corrupt. He faces a maximum of 15 years in jail. Three weeks ago he began a hunger strike. He became so weak that he was moved hospital where he was heavily guarded.
There had been a number of protests at his imprisonment awaiting trial, including appeals for his release from Justice Minister Salah Marghani and Culture Minister Habib Mohammed Al-Amin. There were also demands that Khatabi be freed, from Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
This evening HRW’s Hanan Saleh told the Libya Herald: “The release on bail of detained newspaper editor Amara Al-Khatabi on April 21 for “insulting” members of the judiciary is a welcome step in the right direction. All criminal charges should be dropped against him. Congress should examine repressive speech laws like article 195 of the penal code on insulting officials which formed the basis of charges against Khatabi, and eliminate them or revise them so that they protect peaceful, critical speech rather than send people to prison for it”. [/restrict]