Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds

People attend the burial of Libya's rebel military commander Abdel Fattah Younes in Benghazi. (Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2018
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Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds

  • The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp
  • The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya and a U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli

BENGHAZI: Eastern Libyan authorities have resumed an investigation into the unexplained killing of a top rebel commander in the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, a case that could reopen old wounds.
The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp of the kind that have marked the turmoil and violence gripping Libya ever since.
The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya, controlled by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, and a U.N.-backed administration in the capital Tripoli.
Haftar ordered the eastern military prosecutor to "immediately and urgently reopen the investigation" of the killing of Younes and two others slain in 2011, according to a decree posted late on Monday.
A previous investigation launched in 2011 had named as prime suspect Ali Essawi, who was deputy prime minister during the uprising at a rebel transitional authority which took over power from Gaddafi.
A court later dropped the case against Essawi and other suspects. But Essawi resurfaced into the spotlight when Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez appointed him as economy minister this month.
His appointment had sparked angry reactions from Younes's Obeidat tribe and a second eastern-based tribe, who warned in comments published on local media that the move was a provocation.
Both tribes are among the most powerful in the east and allied to Haftar, who has conquered most of eastern Libya.
The United Nations has been trying to mediate between east and west in a bid to overcome divisions and prepare the North African country for elections.
France had been pushing for the vote in December but recent fighting between rival groups in Tripoli and a lack of a constitutional basis has dimmed the prospect.
Younes was for years part of Gaddafi's inner circle.
He defected at the start of the uprising in February 2011 and became the military chief of the rebellion, a move opposed by other rebels who had suffered under the old regime.
His death caused deep rifts within the rebellion, exposing tensions between Islamists - whom Gaddafi fiercely suppressed during his 42-year dictatorship - and secularists and former army figures, with various factions accusing each other of responsibility.
The circumstances of his killing remain murky, but it is known that he was slain in July 2011 after rebel leaders summoned him back from the front line to Benghazi, the eastern city and cradle of the uprising.


France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Updated 8 min 10 sec ago
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France urges Iran to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

PARIS: France on Thursday called for Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to be released and warned Tehran that its adherence to a nuclear accord does not give it a blank cheque on human rights.
“We will do all we can to secure the release of Mrs.Sotoudeh,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the upper chamber Senate.
“She was condemned under astonishing conditions,” for “defending the rights of women, in particular those who contest the obligation to wear the Islamic veil,” he added.
Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told AFP on Sunday that his wife had been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to only serve the longest sentence, 12 years imposed on Sunday for “encouraging corruption and debauchery.”
She has also been convicted of espionage.
Sotoudeh has also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.
According to Khandan, Sotoudeh has refrained from choosing a lawyer as attorneys on her previous cases have faced prosecution for representing her.
“We have been making considerable efforts in recent months to preserve the (Iranian) nuclear accord, despite America’s withdrawal,” said Le Drian.
“We are doing so because we respect our signature, but Iran must also respect its obligations in particular those international agreements relating to civil and political rights,” he added.
Last month the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran has been adhering to its deal with world powers on limiting its nuclear program, as diplomatic wrangling continues over the future of the accord.
The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Last week, European nations rejected a call from US Vice President Mike Pence to follow the US lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.
Le Drian said Thursday: “Our wish to preserve the Vienna accord does not grant carte-blanche to Iran and certainly not in the matter of human rights.”
Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.
She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.