Libya airport reopens after brief rupture in cease-fire

Grounded air-planes sit on the tarmac at Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli. Rocket fire on August 11 hit the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport, violating a temporary truce between the unity government and forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, airport authorities said. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

Libya airport reopens after brief rupture in cease-fire

  • Khalifa Haftar and Tripoli govt agreed to a truce for Eid Al-Adha holidays

TRIPOLI: Flights have resumed from the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport as calm returned on Monday to the outskirts of Tripoli after a temporary truce was violated the previous day.

“Reopening airspace at Mitiga International Airport after maintenance and cleaning ... so that airlines can renew their flights,” the facility’s management said late on Sunday on Facebook.

The Tripoli-based government and forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar had agreed to a truce for the three-day holiday of Eid Al-Adha that began on Sunday.

Haftar launched an offensive to take Libya’s capital in early April, but encountered stiff resistance, resulting in months of stalemate in southern Tripoli’s outskirts.

Flights from Mitiga airport were suspended for several hours on Sunday after rocket fire hit the airport, a few meters from the runway where planes were parked.

Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military air base that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli International Airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and has often been targeted.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army and the GNA had on Saturday agreed to a UN-sponsored humanitarian truce for Al-Adha, although the GNA listed conditions, including a cessation of troop movements.

The GNA blamed Haftar’s forces for the attack on the airport, in which no casualties or serious damage were reported, and for a separate alleged attack in the Soug Al-Jomaa district of Tripoli.

Over the past four months, 1,093 people have been killed in the fighting and 5,752 wounded, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while more than 120,000 people have been displaced.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.


Iran conservationists get prison time amid unrest: Activists

Updated 25 min 19 sec ago

Iran conservationists get prison time amid unrest: Activists

DUBAI: Six conservationists working to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah have been sentenced to prison on internationally criticized espionage charges in Iran, activists said Thursday, even as protests and unrest continue in parts of the country amid a government-imposed Internet shutdown.
The case against members of the nonprofit Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation show how spying charges and convictions can be levied against dual nationals and those with Western ties in Iran in closed-door trials before its Revolutionary Court.
News of the cases comes after demonstrations against government-set gasoline prices rising turned violent in Iran, killing at least 106 people, according to Amnesty International.
Iran disputes that figure without offering its own and has turned off the Internet across the country, making it difficult to reach those where protests go on. A UN office earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.”
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said Thursday that the convicted conservationists face six to 10 years in prison for “contacts with the US enemy state.” Two others have yet to hear verdicts, it said.
The conservationists found themselves arrested over their use of camera traps to track the cheetahs, a common tool of wildlife experts.
One of the conservationists, Iranian-Canadian citizen Kavous Seyed Emami, died in disputed circumstances in prison in February 2018 awaiting trial. His widow then was blocked from flying out of Iran, but later made it out.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow the country’s Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
“The only crimes that have been committed in relation to the conservationists are their unlawful arrest, their cruel and inhuman treatment in prolonged solitary confinement, the denial of their due process rights, and their sham convictions and sentencing, without evidence or regard for the requirements of law,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the center’s executive director.
Iranian state media and judiciary officials did not immediately comment on the verdicts, which is common in Revolutionary Court cases. The semiofficial Fars news agency, close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, carried a short story acknowledging the verdicts.