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Libyan PM resigns as trial of Gaddafi sons, aides begins - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Libya's acting prime minister Abdallah Al-Thinni speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, in this March 12, 2014 file picture. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

Libya’s acting prime minister Abdallah Al-Thinni speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, in this March 12, 2014 file picture. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libyan Prime Minister-Designate Abdallah Al-Thinni resigned suddenly on Sunday, saying in a statement that he feared for the safety of his family after armed men attacked his residence.

In his resignation letter to Libya’s interim parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), Thinni said his home had been the site of a “cowardly attack” on Saturday, and that he could not “accept to see any violence because of my position.”

The GNC made no official announcement on the resignation by Sunday evening, and did not confirm whether it was accepted or rejected.

A GNC spokesman told reporters the parliament would decide what to do in its next session on Tuesday.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Tripoli, Ahmed Lameen, the official spokesman for Thinni’s government, said that Thinni had sent a letter of resignation to the GNC, denying that Thinni had met with GNC President Nouri Abusahmain.

Thinni, who previously served as defense minister under former prime minister, Ali Zeidan, will remain in office until a replacement can be found.

In the wake of his surprise announcement, different sources in Libya gave different accounts of the events that led up to Thinni’s resignation, and the reasons behind his decision.

Senior Libyan sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that members of a militia group stormed the residence of Thinni and his family and accused him of lying about a recent agreement with Ibrahim Jathran, leader of the armed rebels in Brega, in Libya’s eastern region.

Rebels loyal to Jathran, formerly head of a government security force which guards Libya’s oil infrastructure, recently reached an agreement with Libya’s interim government in Tripoli to end their blockade of several oil terminals across the country.

The blockade, which brought Libya’s oil exports to a virtual standstill and plunged it into financial crisis, was intended to secure more autonomy for Libya’s eastern region, often known as Cyrenaica, and the adoption of a federal political system.

The sources said the attackers, thought to have been members of a group affiliated to the Operation Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, demanded Thinni inform them of any secret clauses in the deal.

Security sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that the attackers stormed Thinni’s house in the Akwakh area of central Tripoli and disarmed his guards, threatening to kill him if he did not resign.

The same sources said that the men threatened to kidnap and murder members of Thinni’s family if he failed to comply.

However, a source close to Thinni offered a different explanation for his resignation. They said he refused to stay in his post after he came under pressure from members of the GNC and commanders of militia groups to appoint their relatives to ministerial posts in his new government.

The source added that he also came under pressure due to a decision to appoint former GNC member Salah Badi as director of Libyan military intelligence, a move that sparked protests outside the organization’s offices in March.

Thinni was expected to present his new government in the next two days. The GNC voted for his appointment by a narrow majority in a controversial session which was attended by 71 members, out of a total of 200.

The GNC initially appointed Thinni as interim prime minister following the dismissal of former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, and was tasked with running the government affairs for two weeks until a new prime minister was chosen.

Thinni’s resignation also came a day before the trial of two of sons of Libya’s late dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, began in Tripoli, together with over 30 of his senior aides.

Saadi and Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi were not present in the courtroom in Tripoli’s Al-Hadba prison for the opening of their trial on Monday, but several other defendants were, including Libya’s former intelligence service chief Abdullah Al-Senussi, former prime minister Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, and former foreign minister Abdul Ati Al-Obaydi.

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, believed to have been Gaddafi senior’s likely successor before his overthrow and summary execution at the hands of rebels in 2011, is being held in Zintan in western Libya by a militia group that has refused to surrender custody to the central government in Tripoli.

His detention in Libya was a source of controversy, with some calling for his extradition and trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague rather than Libya, which has struggled to establish effective new political and judicial institutions in the wake of Gaddafi’s downfall.

The defendants face a variety of charges, including war crimes, some of which stem from the 2011 uprising which toppled Gaddafi with the assistance of NATO forces.

On Monday, as the trial began, the presiding judge adjourned proceedings until April 27, and ordered a video link be set up with Saif Al-Islam in the Zintan prison for future hearings.