Ex-Islamists walk free from Libyan jail

Wed Sep 1, 2010 6:05am GMT
 

By Salah Sarrar

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya freed 37 prisoners late on Tuesday, including at least one former detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, who had been jailed for links to radical Islamist groups but have since renounced violence.

The prisoners were kissed and hugged by waiting relatives when they walked out of the Abu Salim prison near Tripoli, in the latest in a series of releases designed to draw a line under radical Islamist violence in Libya.

"These releases come in the context of national reconciliation and social peace," said Mohamed al Allagi, chairman of the human rights committee of the Gaddafi Foundation, the charity which helped organise the release.

The charity is headed by Saif al-Islam, a reform-minded son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who some analysts say could eventually succeed his father.

Saif al-Islam has campaigned for reconciliation with Islamists who promise to lay down their arms. His initiative has met resistance from conservatives in his father's entourage with whom he is competing for influence.

The 37 prisoners, all dressed in traditional Libyan costume, were given refreshments in a tent inside the prison grounds before being greeted by relatives, many of whom were in tears, said a Reuters reporter at the prison.

Five of the prisoners had links to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which tried to overthrow Gaddafi but whose leaders have since renounced violence, said Abdelhakim Belhadj, a former LIFG leader freed earlier this year.

Belhadj said the rest of the prisoners released on Tuesday had been detained because they sympathised with Islamist militant movements, but were not LIFG members.   Continued...

<p>A member (L) of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group hugs his relative upon his release from Abu Salim prison near Tripoli, August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny</p>
 
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