by Rosie Alfatlawi
UPDATE (23/08/17): Ali Zidan was released on Tuesday after 9 days, according to local news sources.
Libyans have expressed anger over officials’ inaction in securing the release of a former prime minister who was kidnapped on August 13.
Ali Zidan, who led Libya’s first democratically elected government, was abducted by an armed group from the hotel where he was staying in the capital Tripoli. The gunmen were reportedly from the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade, a militia allied to the UN-backed Tripoli government.
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Libya’s al-Wasat quoted a source as saying that Zidan and his companion, Mahmoud al-Sharif al-Kabir, are being held at the headquarters of Haithem Al-Tajouri, leader of the Brigade, “adjacent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. However, others have suggested his location is unknown.
Abducted XPM Zedan is held in a bunker near FM in Tripoli. S. countries are silent. PC busy chasing NGOs. ITALY is suspiciously too quiet. https://t.co/a6zuBYdokq— Salah Marghani (@SalahMtlc) August 19, 2017
The Platform coalition of Libyan civil society organizations condemned what they described as the “forced disappearance” of Zidan in a statement on August 20. It expressed condemnation at the former Prime Minister’s continued detention “amidst a shameful silence of the authorities in the city of Tripoli.”
Zeidan & a colleague have been missing for 7 days. Also missing: Sarraj taking action to release him; intl condemnation of abduction. https://t.co/TmEcFfQHY0— sharon lynch (@sharon_lynch) August 21, 2017
The statement added that neither of the men’s families or lawyers had been able to make contact with them.
Local Arabic-language news sources reported that the head of the Presidential Council (PC), Fayez al-Sarraj, had refused to meet a delegation of southern tribal leaders to discuss the former PM’s disappearance earlier this week. The PC presides over the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Southern Delegation: Serraj refused to respond to our requests regarding the fate of former #Libya PM Ali Zeidanhttps://t.co/sEnbeLqZUs pic.twitter.com/1QGBJkRWR0— Alwasat (@alwasatengnews) August 20, 2017
Some even claim that the PC was directly involved in the kidnapping. Libyan Express reported that the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, a competing government in the east of the country, had called on the PC directly to “release Zidan”.
Meanwhile, the Libya Observer reported hotel officials as saying that “the arrest was done in a legal way through a well-known force operating under the Ministry of Interior”, adding that this was “on the basis of an old arrest warrant issued by the Office of the Attorney General”.
The Platform coalition statement claimed instead that Tripoli’s Attorney-General had indicated that there was no arrest warrant for Zidan.
A video shared on Facebook showed people in Zedan’s home town of Waddan protesting his abduction.
Zedan’s kidnapping is far from an unusual event in Libya, as the Platform coalition made clear.
“This forced disappearance of Mr. Ali Zeidan & Mr. Mahmoud El-Sherief, comes at a time when armed groups continue to kidnap civilians, including politicians and journalists, and have them forcibly disappeared, with complete lack of impunity,” it indicated in the online statement.
It highlighted in particular the cases of activists Abdel Moez Banoun and Jabir Zein, missing for a year and three years respectively following their abductions.
Zedan himself had already been briefly kidnapped in October 2013, before managing to negotiate a travel ban to flee the country in 2014, after having been dismissed by parliament.
Libya has been in a state of chaos since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. A chaotic patchwork of local armed groups controls much of the country, with rival governments in the east and west.
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