Abducted Former Libyan Prime Minister Regains Freedom

by Samuel Abasi Posted on August 22nd, 2017

A former prime minister of Libya who was was reportedly abducted by armed men from the Victoria Hotel in Tripoli last Sunday, has been released, after being held for a week by an armed group linked to the country’s UN-backed government, sources said. Relatives of Mr Ali Zeidan said that he arrived in the capital at the invitation of Fayez-al-Serraj, the current prime minister, on August 11. He was about to leave the hotel for a scheduled meeting with Fayez-al-Serraj when he was abducted. It was his first visit to Tripoli since being ousted as prime minister in March 2014. Ali Zeidan, 61, had not been seen since the evening of August 13 as he was detained by armed men at a Tripoli hotel.

“The trip was arranged by the presidential administration; he was met at the airport by a presidential delegation, and they changed his choice of hotel for what they said were security reasons,” said a relative of Mr Zeidan who asked not to be named.

Relatives earlier said they believed Ali Zeidan is being held by the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, a powerful local militia that emerged during the uprising to overthrow Gaddafi . Representatives of the family said they had not received any ransom demands.

“There has been a powerful smear campaign against Mr Ali Zeidan as well as unclear allegations of corruption or squandering of public money,” said Saleh el-Marghani, who served as justice minister in Mr Zeidan’s cabinet. “The presence of Zeidan in Tripoli may have been too much for the uncontrollable militias to stomach.”

Zeidan Zeidan, the former prime minister’s son, said he had “no idea” why the brigade might detain his father. “This trip was a fact finding mission to work out how to get the country out of this mess. He wasn’t saying ‘I’m here to reclaim my throne,’ or something,” he said.

Colleagues of Mr Zeidan said two earlier abduction attempts had been prevented by hotel guards, and that the abductors showed up in force on Sunday evening.

Haitham Tajouri, the commander of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, nominally supports the Government of National Unity that Mr Serraj heads.

The GNA has attempted to incorporate Mr Tajouri and his militia into Tripoli’s security apparatus but it is not clear what, if any, control Mr Serraj has over the group.

Reports in Libyan media suggested the TRB may have been acting on a warrant issued by Sadiq al-Sour, the Libyan attorney general, apparently relating to allegations of financial misconduct when he was in office.

However Zeidan Zeidan said he had been assured by the attorney general there was no warrant and no court case had been brought.

“If there was a warrant, it would have been an arrest, not a abducting,” he said.

Mr Serraj’s office did not respond to emailed questions on Tuesday. Repeated calls to his press office went unanswered.


Photo: Ali Zeidan former Libya Prime Minister

Mr Ali Zeidan, a diplomat turned human rights lawyer, lived in exile in Geneva for three decades before returning to Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Gadaffi’s regime in 2011.

He served as prime minister in October 2012 but was forced out over his government’s failure to prevent a North Korean-flagged oil tanker loading oil from a rebel-controlled terminal two years later. Mr Ali Zeidan was briefly abducted from a hotel by a militia group in 2013, leading some to speculate that his abduction was a settling of old scores.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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