By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 8 October 2014:
Much remains unclear about the release of 24 East Europeans, captured during the revolution and accused . . .[restrict]of being mercenaries and maintaining military equipment in Qaddafi’s forces.
That they have now left Libya and arrived in Moscow seems certain but the terms under which they were released by the Zintanis is not. Rumours abound of a $50 million ransom and the delivery of Russian arms and ammunition. It was not possible to contact senior Zintanis for comment.
The men, two Russians and three Belorussians apparently along with 19 Ukrainians had originally been tried by a military court, where they were found guilty of a range of crimes. Their defence was that they were oil workers. They had been hired under false pretences and forced to work on military systems. The Russian who had led the group was given a life sentence while the others were condemned to ten-years hard labour.
Lawyers for the group appealed successfully on the grounds that the men should have been tried in a civilian court. That fresh trial has been postponed repeatedly because of security concerns.
The men were captured and continued to be held by Zintanis . They were imprisoned in Tripoli for long periods at a building off the Airport Road. However they were later moved to Zintan.
One of the Ukrainians, Anatoli Kozlow, aged 64 died in Zintan this summer. Therefore reports that 19 Ukrainians have returned must be wrong. A group picture carried by Russian media, apparently taken before the men left Libya, shows only 21 people.
The Russian foreign ministry has described the release as a triumph for “silent diplomacy”.
Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that from the moment the men were arrested, Moscow had been working for their release.
“The main thing that we can say today” he added, “is that all Russians have returned home. All of them are in good health. This equally concerns the citizens of Belarus and Ukraine, for whom we have been fighting as persistently as for our own nationals”.
There remain however four more Ukrainians captured at the revolution who have never even been brought to trial. They are held at his Mitiga base by a militia headed by Abdel Raouf Kara. A year ago Kara told the Libya Herald that the quartet would be tried as soon as there was “a proper and fair judicial system”, which he said did not exist. He also said that he could not accede the pressures to hand the men over to the government, because no real state existed.