• January 4, 2006

Libyan Political Prisoners Start Strike

Libyan Political Prisoners Start Strike

 More than 130 Libyan political prisoners, mostly members of the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood group, have started a hunger strike in a Tripoli prison, saying the government broke its promise to release them, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, said last year that the 131 prisoners would be freed by September 2004, but the promise was never kept, said Jouma Umami, secretary of the Human Right Solidarity, a Libyan group that operates in Geneva.

The prisoners began the hunger strike on Monday. They’re among a group of 152 people arrested in 1998 during a wide-ranging crackdown against anti-government activists, mainly members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Libya’s largest and oldest Islamic group.

In February 2002, a court sentenced two of them to death, 73 to life and 11 others to 10 years in prison. Sixty-six were acquitted.

Umami said the prisoners were retried in October and a verdict was expected at the end of this month.

“We are closely following up the events with great concern and denounce the continuation of jailing prisoners of conscience in Libya and consider it as a gross violation of their rights,” Human Right Solidarity said in a statement signed by 21 other groups from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain.

The statement said Fathi al-Mesmari, a prisoner who was sentenced to 10 years in 1998, had been retried and sentence to life in prison.

Libya bans political parties and its laws prohibit unsanctioned political activity, which is considered treason and is punishable by death.