TRIPOLI, Libya, (AP) – Libya has released 214 Islamic militants, including senior members of a group accused of plotting to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, after they renounced violence.
The Libyan leader’s son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said 34 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, including its leader, were sent home Tuesday after they affirmed they had broken ties with the organization. The group is suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.
“This is an important day for Libya because it is a day of forgiveness and honesty,” the younger Gadhafi said at a news conference Tuesday.
Gadhafi’s son has been leading a dialogue with militants through a rehabilitation program run by his organization, the Gadhafi Foundation.
The efforts are the latest by Arab governments to address militant movements through rehabilitation programs rather than solely through force. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both pioneered programs to “deprogram” militants and allow them to rejoin society.
“Since the beginning of this program, 705 Islamists have been freed and 409 are still in prison,” Gadhafi said, adding that 232 more will be released after making sure they had fully renounced their past activities.
The Libyan government released 88 Islamic militants in October, including 45 members of the Islamic Fighting Group.
Most of those in Libyan prison are serving sentences of between 10 years and life after being detained in the mid-1990s.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was believed to have joined al-Qaeda’s ranks after a reference was made to them in an audio tape released on the Internet in 2007 by the terror network’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri.