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Libya's Prisoners Languish Despite Government Takeover

More than 300 inmates at the notorious Tajura prison in Libya have been wasting away since last year, writes Mustafa Fetouri. The interim government finally took over the prison in March, but the inmates, including Fetouri's colleague, have yet to see a judge or be charged with an official crime for fear of retaliation from the "revolutionary brigades." 
Families of imprisoned Gaddafi loyalists gather outside a prison in the Tajura area of Tripoli November 3, 2011. The families are calling for the release of their family members. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW SOCIETY)

The 300-plus inmates at the notorious Tajura prison, 10 miles east of Tripoli, were relieved when they woke up one late-March morning to find the prison guards had been replaced. They were no longer bearded-men in civilian clothes, but the Libyan police in regular, official police uniforms. The interim government had finally managed to gain control of the notorious prison, in which some five different nationalities are being held without trial. Among them is my long-time friend and colleague from a university in Tripoli. He, just like many others, was picked up by armed militias in and around the Libyan capital. He is a university professor who was kidnapped from the busy shopping district, Gargarish last March.

Some inmates have been in the prison since October 2011 without trial, or charges. The change of guard should have brought, not only relief but, immediate freedom and the opportunity for the prisoners to have their day in the court of law, which is ironically still absent in Libya. 

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