March 2, 2011 / 5:49 PM / 9 years ago

East Libyans burn Gaddafi book, demand constitution

* Green Book outlines Gaddafi’s political, economic ideas

* Protesters demand Libya adopt proper constitution

By Alexander Dziadosz

BENGHAZI, Libya, March 2 (Reuters) - Several hundred protesters burned copies of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s “Green Book” in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday, an act of contempt unthinkable just three weeks ago.

The overthrow of Gaddafi’s 41-year rule in much of the country’s east last month has allowed many Libyans to lash out for the first time at what they see as an absurd and oppressive personality cult.

Protesters chanted, waved signs and danced as they tossed copies of the book, which outlines the ideas behind Gaddafi’s “Third Universal Theory,” onto a large fire, sending thick plumes of smoke and ash into the air.

“House by house, alley by alley, oh Muammar, oh you donkey,” demonstrators chanted, ridiculing Gaddafi’s pledge to cleanse the country “house by house”.

Many demonstrators carried signs demanding Libya adopt a proper constitution. Others called for an end to “military rule” and to Gaddafi’s “monopoly on authority”.

Gaddafi’s theory seeks to chart a course between Islamic doctrine and socialism. It outlines loose political and economic guidelines for running Libya, which has no formal constitution.

In the distance, the skeleton of a centre devoted to studying the Green Book stood charred and abandoned. Demonstrators scaled its pointed roof, waving pre-Gaddafi, monarchy-era flags that have come to represent the uprising.

“We hate this book because it is useless,” said Moataz Hadad, 25, a medical intern. He added that, like all Libyan students, he was forced to study the book but ridiculed its content.

“‘The man is male and the woman is female’. That is a quotation from this book,” he said derisively.

Hadad and other students at the protest said endless study meant they could spout chunks from memory.

“For 42 years we have been listening to that crazy man and what he thinks, every day. So we’ve learned by heart how and what he thinks,” he said.

Gaddafi seized control of Libya in a bloodless coup d’etat in September, 1969.

Khaled Ismail, 28, a jobless law graduate, said the Green Book needed to be scrapped because it allowed Gaddafi and his government to act with impunity.

As evidence, he displayed scars on his torso that he said he sustained from bullets fired during a 2006 protest outside the Italian embassy in Benghazi, the memory of which has helped fuel the city’s uprising against Gaddafi’s rule.

“The book does not include the rights of citizens, it does not include the state’s obligations. It does not include the separation of powers and it does not include a constitution,” Ismail said. (Editing by Jon Hemming)

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