TRIPOLI, Libya, (AP) – Libyan authorities released 90 members of a group with suspected links to al-Qaeda after they renounced violence, a government-backed group said.
Those released from a Tripoli jail on Tuesday were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which purportedly has links to the terror network. They were serving prison terms ranging from 10 years to life after being convicted of belonging to a banned organization and carrying out illegal activities. Most had already served between six to eight years.
The group has long been accused in Libya of plotting to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The release was mediated by the Gadhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, an organization funded by the government and chaired by Seif al-Islam, the eldest son of the Libyan leader.
“All the released have denounced violence,” said foundation director Saleh Abdul-Salam. “The foundation will help them in finding work and integrating better into society.”
The release followed two months of talks between the foundation and the Islamic group’s imprisoned leaders. The charity said those released represent a third of the group’s members in Libyan prisons.
One of the released from the capital’s Abu Salim prison, Noureddin Ragab, told reporters he was arrested as a suspected member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group but that he stands “against violence.”
“Our religion and our society do not accept violence,” he said.
The militancy group recently joined al-Qaeda’s ranks, according to an audio tape released on the Internet last November and attributed to the terror network’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.