Three including AFP photographer freed after “sinful” Benghazi Earth Hour celebrations

By Libya Herald reporters.

AFP photographer Abdullah Doma (Photo: Abdullah Doma)

Freed AFP photographer Abdullah Doma (Photo: Abdullah Doma)

Benghazi and Tunis, 29 March 2017:

An Agence France Presse journalist, arrested overnight for taking photographs of a “sinful” Earth Hour rally in Benghazi was freed today, a member of his family has confirmed.  He is reported to have said that he had been well treated while in custody.

Abdullah Doma had been arrested along with four others, believed to be event organisers, by the Benghazi Security Directorate after he posted on his social media page pictures he had taken of Saturday’s  Earth Hour celebrations on the Benghazi University medical campus. They showed male and female singers and members of the audience dancing during the event. It is reported the actual arrests were carried out by a Salafist group.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the Beida-based government of Abdullah Thinni issued a statement saying that the way the Earth Hour event was celebrated sinful and evil and did not belong to Islam.

“This Earth Hour event took advantage of a group of people in which men and women were mixed  at night in an atmosphere full of evil”,  it said. “Some of them appeared to be particularly attired in the infidels’ outfits, making signs of Freemasonry and Satanism.”

This is thought to be a reference to the fact that some of the young women Doma photographed had not covered their heads and were wearing trousers. It is not clear what “Satanic” and “Masonic” signs they were supposed to be making.

The Awqaf  statement went on to say: “ Our country is the country of Tawhid [unity of the faithful] and Sunnah [sayings and deeds of the Prophet], so either you may be like this, otherwise there is no place for you among us.”

It praised the fact that the dean of the university had denounced the event, although the organisers protested  that they had received the university’s permission to hold the Earth Hour party, the third year in which it has been celebrated in Benghazi.  It had first been marked in Libya in 2012, but Benghazi staged its first major celebration the following year.

As in many other towns and cities around the world, the hour this year was marked by the turning off of all electric lights. Saturday’s celebrations in Benghazi were lit purely by candles.

It is understood that the police arrested the four organisers because the event had not been authorised by the military authorities. Doma was detained at his home in the early hours apparently because, as a journalist, he had been covering the event and because he later published some of his pictures on his Facebook page.

AFP said tonight that two of the organisers who had been detained were also released today. The fate of the other two is unclear.

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