Magharebia (Washington DC)

1 April 2013

Libya: Gunmen Storm Libyan Justice Ministry

Tripoli — Members of the Libyan Interior Ministry's Supreme Security Committee (SSC) on Sunday (March 31st) besieged the justice ministry in Tripoli. The protestors demanded Minister Salah Marghani's resignation after his recent televised remarks where he called some armed groups illegitimate and their prisons illegal.

"Those who attacked the ministry want to intimidate us," Marghani said on Sunday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ali Zidan. "However, the building may be stormed and the justice minister may get killed, but justice won't die, given that justice is God and justice is truth, and falsehood won't prevail over truth."

He added that the SSC militias had stormed the building in protest at government plans to hand the Metiga airbase prison to the justice ministry. Marghani said that the attackers would "be held to account legally either locally or internationally". He noted that employees were evacuated of the building in the early morning.

"No prisons may be maintained beyond justice ministry's control," the justice minister warned. "No other ministry can operate prisons beyond the justice ministry." According to Zidan, "the reason for storming the justice ministry building was that the justice minister demanded that all detention facilities and prisons be placed under the legitimacy of state and control of justice ministry, justice ministry's judicial police and the attorney-general".

"However, this didn't appeal to those who attacked, given that they are illegally holding prisoners and want these places to be under their own legitimacy," Zidan added.

The premier admitted that there are "security breaches" in Libya.

On Saturday, gunmen attacked the headquarters of the military command in Sebha, killing an army officer and soldier, Libya Herald reported. Three other Libyan soldiers were injured. The attack was attributed to criminals seeking revenge for the recent crackdown on smuggling operations.

In other security news Saturday, a bomb blast damaged a court in Derna. No casualties were reported. Also last week, a 15th century Sufi leader's tomb in Tripoli was destroyed on Thursday in a triple bombing by unknown assailants, AFP reported.

Last week's brutal gang rape of two British activists in Benghazi sparked outrage among Libyans, who are growing increasingly alarmed at the scope of violence in the country. "Those who committed this act are not part of honest Libyans," said Qadria Saleh, a resident of Tobruk and President of Dorsaf Charity. "However, this will affect the progress of our revolution with our friends in European countries."

The two women and their father were travelling in a convoy for Istanbul-based Islamic charity IHH when they were abducted and assaulted in Benghazi.

They "were horribly raped in front of their father ", Deputy Prime Minister Awadh al-Barassi said in a statement posted on his Facebook account. On Thursday, the Deputy Prime Minister visited the women in a Benghazi hospital.

"We consider this to be an assault on all of us and on our guests and a violation of the sanctity of our guests," Saleh said. "This is a heinous act and we as Libyan women condemn it as it contradicts with our humanity. We hope that this incident will not affect our relations with the international community and the people and government of Britain," he added.

Engineer Najia al-Harbi said, "This is a very painful and unfortunate incident. Why does this happen in Libya?"

Nevin al-Bah, a lawyer and rights activist, said, "They are criminals. They rape, o, God, o, God! Have we lost all morals?"

"What happened to this convoy is a disgrace. This is undoubtedly a criminal act that God, before the law, will punish them for. Unfortunately, we painfully said it that the Libyan street now suffers a moral crisis that has corrupted the values and habits of our young people," journalist and correspondent for al-Assema TV in Benghazi Fatima al-Marimi said.

She argued that the incident shows the "dire situation" in which Libyans find themselves. "We pray to God to calm our souls, minds and morals, which we hope will return as they were," al-Marimi said.

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