TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libya late Tuesday released 37 Islamists, including a former driver of Osama bin Laden and members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
Wearing white traditional robes, the mostly young detainees were assembled in a tent put up in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison where they were joined by their families.
Bin Laden’s former driver, Nasser Tailamoun, and former Guantanamo detainee Abu Sofian Ben Guemou, handed over by the Americans in 2007, were among those released, according to the Kadhafi Foundation.
The others were members of or connected with the LIFG, or jihadists who collaborated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq or in north Africa, a prison official said.
The release came just before the 41st anniversary of the Libyan revolution which brought Colonel Moamer Kadhafi to power.
A source close to the foundation, headed by the son of Kadhafi, Seif al-Islam, told AFP 150 more Islamists would be released soon.
According to the foundation, “these people had completed their rehabilitation programme, which was aimed at getting the prisoners to renounce violence and reintegrate them into Libyan society.”
The foundation’s human rights spokesman Mohamed Allagui said it was “working to free the other detainees so that there will no longer be any prisoners of opinion in Libya.”
Since 2007, the organisation has been reaching out to Islamists jailed in Libya, a policy which saw 214 of them released in March.
Among them were 34 members of the LIFG, including the three leaders of the Islamist group — top boss Abdelhakim Belhaj, military chief Khaled Shrif and ideological official Sami Saadi
The group, made up of Libyans who had been in Afghanistan to combat Soviet invaders in the 1980s, announced its existence in 1995, saying its objective was to overthrow the Kadhafi regime and replace it with a radical Islamic one.
In 2007, Al-Qaeda announced that the LIFG had joined the jihadist network and Abu Laith al-Libi, one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants, was thought to be directing it for a time from Central Asia.
Libi was killed in a 2008 US missile strike in the tribal zone of northwest Pakistan and last year, the Kadhafi Foundation announced that Islamists being held in Libyan prisons that had previously had links with Al-Qaeda had renounced those ties.