By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 14 December 2013:
The international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded that Libyan authorities drop criminal charges . . .[restrict]against two Libyan politicians accused of insulting Islam and a newspaper editor accused of insulting members of the judiciary.
Sarah Leah Whitson, director for HRW in the Middle East and North Africa, has attacked the charges saying they contravene freedom of expression. “It’s disappointing that the prosecutor is still able to use old Qaddafi-era laws to muzzle free speech,” Whitson said. “Anyone in Libya who wants to discuss corruption or other sensitive issues in public apparently still needs to look over their shoulder to see if they will be arrested”, she concluded.
The NGO says that Ali Tekbali, the Libyan National Party’s policy and campaigns manager, and Fathi Sager, its secretary general, face multiple charges including insulting Islam and instigating division. The charges relate to allegedly offensive posters used during the 2012 election campaign for congress. Two of the charges carry a possible death sentence.
In a separate case, says HRW, the editor of Al-Umma newspaper, Amara Al-Khatabi, still faces trial for insulting members of the judiciary after publishing a list with 87 names of allegedly corrupt judges and prosecutors. Khatabi, who was held in prison for four months while being investigated but then allowed in August to go abroad for health treatment, could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
HRW has said that Libya “should eliminate all laws that provide penalties for insulting public officials and institutions, and eliminate laws criminalising defamation”. [/restrict]