Published On: Fri, Jan 31st, 2020

Libyan government must honor its promise, release ‘illegally detained’ employees – Russian NGO

A Russian NGO has accused the government in Tripoli of breaking the pledge it made during peace talks by refusing to release two of its employees, arrested last year on charges of “meddling” in an election that never happened.

Maxim Shugalei and Samer Hassan Ali Seifan worked for the Foundation for National Values Protection, a Russian nonprofit. They were arrested in May 2019 by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

“We consider that one of the objectives of this arrest of Russian citizens was the urge to prevent the leak of the results of their social studies, which prove the absence of your support by the citizens of Libya,” the Foundation’s president Alexander Malkevich said in an open letter to GNA head Fayez Al-Sarraj, released on Thursday.

Shugalei and Seifan were detained “without any legal grounds” and on Sarraj’s instructions, Malkevich added. “According to our information, members of foreign intelligence agencies also participated in the arrest.”

The Foundation for National Values Protection is accusing Libyan PM Fayez al-Sarraj (pictured in Berlin, Germany, January 20, 2020) of illegally detaining two of their employees ©  REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

It was reported at the time that Seifan and Shugalei were arrested on suspicion of trying to “influence” the upcoming elections – which had been called off the month before, as troops of the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) began advancing on Tripoli. 

Malkevich called on Sarraj to release the two men under a commitment he made earlier this month, during the peace talks in Berlin sponsored by Russia and Turkey. The Foundation’s letter was also published as a paid advertisement by the Washington Post.

Tripoli’s response was to say that Sarraj “does not interfere” in the work of law enforcement, according to Foreign Minister Mohammed Siyala.

“An investigation is underway regarding those two, and when it is finished the judicial organs will make a statement,” Siyala told RIA Novosti on Friday.

Also on

A destroyed and burnt tank, that belongs to the eastern forces led by Khalifa Haftar, is seen in Gharyan south of Tripoli Libya June 27, 2019. © REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
In 2011 Russia and Turkey did not stop NATO in Libya. Now their voices speak loudest as they try to end 9 years of chaos

Moscow and Ankara are spearheading the latest initiative to get the GNA and LNA to negotiate an end to the civil war in Libya. Turkey has sent troops and weapons to the GNA, while Russia has been accused of supporting LNA chief General Khalifa Haftar – though Moscow has denied this. Sarraj refuses to negotiate with Haftar in person, and while significant progress has been made at the meetings in Moscow and Berlin over the past month, a ceasefire has yet to materialize.

The GNA is internationally recognized, but only controls the area around Tripoli, with Haftar’s forces in charge of most of the rest of Libya. The once prosperous North African country sank into chaos in 2011, after a NATO intervention helped local militants overthrow and brutally murder long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi. 

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