Tripoli — Libyan jihadists held captive in Iraq were spared the death penalty for now, but questions remain over the future of other detainees.
Iraqi judicial authorities on Sunday (December 9th) postponed the execution of two Libyan nationals held on terror charges, according to the Libyan foreign ministry website.
The ministry said the death penalty was put off after a telephone conversation between Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan and his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki.
One of those set to be executed was Derna native Adel al-Shaalani. He stood accused of entering Iraq illegally and participating in violent crimes.
Former Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Bin Khayal said Sunday that four prisoners were released from Iraqi jails and that there were errors in data related to four other Libyan detainees.
Bin Khayal added that there were number of other Libyan prisoners in Iraq to be released. The cases are being studied and followed up at all levels by government agencies and civil society organisations, according to the minister.
Iraq still holds 30 Libyan prisoners, including four sentenced to death, according to Al Jazeera.
The latest stay of execution follows intense pressure from Libyan government officials. Interim Justice Minister Salah al-Mirghani appealed to the Iraqi government, international human rights organisations, the Arab League and the United Nations to halt the implementation of the death sentence.
The minister said in a telephone interview with Magharebia that he directly appealed to Iraqi authorities, particularly the justice minister, to intervene to stop the execution. He asked the Iraqi minister to "stop for the sake of human rights, our Islamic faith and the brotherhood between the people of Libya and Iraq".
Last Saturday, Benghazi residents and friends of the detainees in Iraq rallied outside the Tibetsi Hotel, urging Libyan authorities press for the prisoners' release. They also demanded that the death sentence against al-Shaalani not be carried out.
Nasser al-Manaa, a spokesman for former Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Keib's transitional government, confirmed last July that there were various accusations against 18 Libyan detainees in Iraqi prisons. He said the transitional government had made many efforts to help them. Eighty other Libyans remain unaccounted for in Iraq, according to the government spokesman.
"We visited most prisoners and communicated with them twice weekly and more," he added.
Shoaib Shuhaibi, the public relations director at the commission charged with overseeing the cases of Libyan prisoners in Iraq, reported that al-Shaalani was sentenced seven years ago as a terrorist.
"There are errors and a lack of scrutiny and name changes, but we are focusing our efforts on those on the death row," he explained, adding that there were about 20 Libyan nationals sentenced to death in Iraq on charges of terrorism.