The government of Libya has released two men convicted in 2007 of planning to overthrow the government and meeting with a foreign official, Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced March 10. Jamal al-Haji and Faraj Humaid were arrested as part of a larger group in Tripoli in February 2007, in advance of a planned demonstration in the city’s Martyrs Square commemorating the deaths of 11 people during a 2006 clash between protesters and police. The nine other men arrested as part of the so-called Boufayed Group were released by the end of 2008—including supposed ringleader Idris Boufayed, who suffers from lung cancer. HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson called the men’s release “a particularly welcome step in light of the Libyan authorities’ stated initiative of breaking with the past.”
Libya has had a mixed human rights record in recent years. The release of the political prisoners comes as relations between Libya and the US are improving, though the State Department recently criticized Libya for its continued detention of political prisoners in its 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In 2008, the US and Libya reached an agreement to settle all pending lawsuits brought by US terror victims against Libya. In 2004, the US lifted the remaining sanctions against Libya as a reward for its agreement to dismantle its weapons programs. At the same time, Libya faced international criticism for its treatment of six foreign medics accused infecting hospital patients with HIV in 2007. (Jurist, March 11; FSRN, March 10)
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