TRIPOLI – A campaign is being mounted to free Libyan human rights activist Ahmed Shami who has been working at the behest of the Libyan authorities to repatriate Libyans arrested in Iraq. He was arrested by the Iraqi authorities in October and has now been held for 50 days.
According to a number of Libyan civil rights activists, including Taha Shakshuki of the Libyan Group for Demanding Libyan Prisoners Abroad, the Libyan academic had managed to organize the repatriation of five Libyans from Iraq in recent months. However, on Oct. 18, when about to leave from Baghdad Airport, he was arrested by of the Iraqi security agents. It is reported that they had no arrest warrant nor would they tell him why he was being detained. Libyan activists who have taken up his case believe the reason he was arrested is because of the help he had given Libyan detainees in Iraq.
They also report that he was not allowed to call his family in Libya, although in fact he managed to contact them with the help of an intermediary, telling them that he was going to appear in court on Nov. 6.
According to his son Mahmoud, the judge that day ordered his release on the basis of no evidence against him. However, the court order was ignored. He was then taken to Baghdad Central Prison, more notoriously known by its previous name, Abu Ghraib Prison, where he remains.
The case has now been taken up by four Libyan NGOs: The Libyan Organization for the Protection of Aims of the 17 February Revolution, the Youth Awareness Association, the Humanitarian Awareness Coalition, and “Libya Called Me” Association, as well as by the Swiss-based human rights organisation Alkarama.
Members of the Libyan organizations have now been to the Foreign Ministry and to the General National Congress to press the authorities into taking action. However, according to Shakshuki there was little practical offer of help. He said that they were told to go and see him for help.
One of the activists, Samira Farjani, told the Libya Herald that she, Mahmoud Shami and others saw the Libyan Attorney-General Abdelaziz Al-Hassadi two weeks ago about the case. She said he told them that according to the information he had been given, Shami Sr. had been kidnapped then released. He was “sympathetic”, Farjani said, and asked for the activists to give him a report. He said that he would be in touch with the Libyan Foreign Ministry and the Iraqi Attorney General on the matter. “We must defend him”, Farjani quoted Hassadi as saying.
According to Mahmoud Shami, one of the Libyans whom his father was trying to get sent back to Libya, a 38-year-old named Adel Juma Al-Shalali who was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to death is to be executed on Sunday at 8 a.m.
Farjani has now accused the Libyan authorities of doing nothing to get Shami released. She sent the Libya Herald an impassioned letter about the case.
“Dr Shami was arrested in Baghdad Airport without cause. He has been in jail of about 50 days, despite the fact that he was an official envoy of the Libyan authorities, which, in my opinion, is an insult to the Libyan state and insult to all Libyan people.
“How can they arrest a special envoy and throw him in jail for no apparent reasons? Worse still, the Libyan state has done nothing to secure his release! Had this man be an American or British, no stone would have been left unturned! Israel waged a war on Gaza because of a captured soldier, whereas an official envoy of the Libyan state gets arrested and no one seems to care about him, Have Libyans became cheap to such a degree? Or is Libya no longer able to protect its citizens! “Since the Libyan government seemed to be turning a blind eye to its own citizen, we, the Libyans, must not remain helpless. We, as people should care about him and make every effort in order to free our son from the Iraqi jail.
“We, the civil society institutions, started our own efforts after we were shocked at the fact that the state did not do anything about the plight of this man”. – Libya Herald