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Libya: Zeidan kidnapping highlights security crisis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (L) puts his hand on his head during a press conference shortly after his release, with head of the General National Congress Nouri Bousahmein (R) in Tripoli, Libya, 10 October 2013. (EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI)

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (L) puts his hand on his head during a press conference shortly after his release, in Tripoli, Libya, on October 10, 2013. (EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI)

London/Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Only hours after his abduction and subsequent release, Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan appeared at a brief televised cabinet meeting, where he called for calm and wisdom.

“Libyans need wisdom . . . not escalation . . . to deal with this situation,” Zeidan said.

Sitting next to the head of the General National Congress (GNC), Nouri Abu Sahmain, and members of the government and the parliament, Zeidan thanked the chief of staff and the military and police forces for their efforts.

The audacious abduction of the Libyan premier by some 150 gunmen on Thursday points to a dangerous state of security instability in the North African country.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, head of Tripoli’s Supreme Security Committee, Hashim Bishr, said that a group affiliated with the Operations Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries (ORLR) appeared at the Corinthia Hotel where Zeidan was staying, informing the prime minister’s security guards they had orders from the Public Prosecutor to arrest Zeidan.

But Bishr saud that Zeidan’s guards “did not see any arrest order.”

Tasked with providing security for the Libyan capital, the ORLR “told him [Zeidan] that he was wanted for questioning and he went with them, although his guards wanted to resist.”

Bishr confirmed that the ORLR is “affiliated with the GNC,” adding, “As for whether they had orders to arrest Zeidan, nobody knows.”

On its official Facebook page, the ORLR said they had arrested Zeidan under orders from the country’s public prosecutor, only to deny these claims just hours later.

Bishr considered Zeidan’s arrest illegal, dismissing claims it was initiated by the public prosecutor.

“This is not the method of the Public Prosecutor’s Bureau,” Bishr told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Since when are arrests made at 4:00 am? This is not the way the prime minister should be treated, given that he is a legal representative of Libya and is considered to be at the top of the [country’s] executive branch.”

International condemnations of the incident came from the US, the UK, France and the UN, among other countries and organizations.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “[Zeidan’s] brief detention clearly violated Libyan law. The incident highlights the grave security conditions in Libya today. Hopefully it will refocus attention on the urgent need to strengthen both the country’s security forces and its judicial systems.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Libyans did not risk their lives in their 2011 revolution to tolerate a return to thuggery.

“Today’s events only underscore the need to work with Prime Minister Zeidan and with all of Libya’s friends and allies to help bolster its capacity with greater speed and greater success.”

A statement on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, also pointed to the deteriorating security situation in Libya.

The statement read: “The secretary-general calls on all Libyan parties and the Libyan people to form consensus around national priorities and work towards building a strong, stable country, respectful of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.”