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28 November 2023

Libyan held on traffic charge after protest call

By Reuters

A writer who called for peaceful mass protests in Libya like those in Tunisia and Egypt has been arrested on the pretext of an alleged car accident, Amnesty International said.

The human rights group said Jamal al-Hajji, who has dual Libyan and Danish nationality, was arrested on Feb. 1 shortly after he issued a call on the Internet for demonstrations in support of greater freedoms in the North African country.

"Hajji was arrested in a car park in Tripoli by a group of about 10 security officials in plain clothes who told him a man claimed to have been hit by Jamal al-Hajji's car, which he had just parked," it added.

Hajji denies the allegation, and the incident was "merely a pretext to conceal what was really a politically motivated arrest", Amnesty said.

Political parties are banned in Libya, public dissent is rare and rights groups say many opponents of leader Muammar Gaddafi are in jail. But Gaddafi says Libyans enjoy greater democracy than in Western countries because of their system of grass-roots government.

A Libyan human rights group said it was in contact with authorities to try to win Hajji's release.

The Libya-based Human Rights Association "is deploying initiatives with relevant parties in Libya to organise a visit to imprisoned Jamal al-Hajji", its leader Mohamed Ternish told Reuters.

The association had links in the past to Saif al-Islam, a son of the Libyan leader and one of the most vocal supporters of reforms in Libya.

There was no comment from the government on Hajji's case.

Amnesty said that on Feb. 3, Hajji appeared before the general prosecutor in Tripoli and was charged with injuring a person with his car. His detention was extended for six days and he was transferred to the capital's Jdaida Prison.

"The Libyan authorities must clarify the legal status of Jamal al-Hajji," said Amnesty.

Hajji has written a series of articles about politics and human rights in Libya, mostly published on news websites abroad. He was recently detained for at least four months for "contempt of judicial authorities", after complaining to the authorities that he had been ill-treated while imprisoned for two years up to March 2009, the rights group added.