Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Talks between Libya and Islamists Stall | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Libyan sources have revealed to Asharq al-Awsat that the reconciliation negotiations and “the turning over of a new leaf” between the Libyan authorities and the two wings of the Islamist trend have stalled.

The negotiations were supposed to have been mediated by the moderate Islamist Dr Ali al-Salabi, who is regarded as being close to the Libyan Muslim brotherhood. The negotiations suddenly started to stumble, because the new Libyan cabinet included ministers accused by the Islamists and other opposition groups of having committed terrible acts against political activists in the 1990s. The most prominent case in this respect is that of Abu-Salim prison, where the opposition says 1,200 prisoners have been held in bad conditions since the 1990s.

The Islamist trend is demanding that officials implicated in torture be put on trial and that the fate of activists detained since the 1990s be made public. Moreover, they demand that the Libyan authorities issue official death certificates for all those who died in prison and that the date and cause of death be recorded on the death certificates.

The Libyan Islamic brotherhood expressed resentment at the formation of the new Libyan government in a communiqué issued yesterday. The sources said that the brotherhood has been having indirect contacts with the Libyan regime over the past two years, and were encouraged to do so by Al-Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam. But it is no longer representing only itself in the negotiations as it has been entrusted the task of trying to negotiate with other intransigent Islamist trends that took up arms against the state in the 1990s. Moreover the brotherhood are also involved in contacts to appease the hundreds of families demanding to know the fate of their sons and are threatening to support a lawsuit the opposition is threatening to lodge with European courts against Libyan officials.

The sources said that the negotiations were going slowly and were supposed to be completed through the mediation of Dr Al-Salabi. They have started to stumble and may reach deadlock, following the objection by the Islamist trend -especially the fighting Libyan groups, the Tahrir trend and the Muslim brotherhood -to the formation of the new Libyan government, and to the regime’s way of negotiating what the Islamist trend and other opposition groups call ‘the file of the murdered in Abu-Salim prison.’

One source from the Libyan Islamist activists told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Islamic trend has been shocked by the latest reshuffles in government.” He added: “After the release of some people from prison, they [the regime] came up with people we cannot negotiate with on anything. We have refused to negotiate with them in the past because they were the cause of past events.” He went on to say: “Some representatives from the (brotherhood) Islamic trend have previously started talks with Saif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi who promised them reform, and who himself was not happy with the new changes in government. I believe that all this is part of a game they are playing against reform. They want to close the file of Abu-Salim prison at any cost, so that it does not reach European courts.”

Ibrahim Umaysh, head of the political department, who is also a member of the executive committee of the national Libyan coalition, said that “the negotiations were actually taking place between the Islamist trend and the Libyan regime, and the Islamist trend has hoped that some measures would be taken concerning them that would confirm the government’s direction towards reform, but in my view, the fact that the regime has not done so, through the formation of the new government, was expected.”

The Islamic brotherhood regard the cabinet reshuffle last week, which was based on decisions of the people’s conference [Parliament], as being mere formalities and do not respond to the ambitions of the Libyan people. They described the new government as being “an old government in a new garb”. They stated in their communiqué, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, that the People’s conference should have discussed fundamental issues of state such as the dire and urgent need for a constitution to deal with the chaotic state produced by the absence of an authoritative reference [the constitution]. The communiqué went on to state that “what has been happening in the corridors of power in our country, and the changes produced in the international arena, cannot be ignored by anyone claiming to care about his country.”

The communiqué demanded that the Libyan regime shoulder its responsibility; effectuate change and work towards ending the state of stagnation and political and economic freeze, that does not serve the interests of the people and the country at present, nor serve the interests of future generations and the peace and security of the country.”

According to Libyan sources, support for the Muslim brotherhood in the country has been on the increase since the late 1990s and coincided with a fierce blow dealt to the brotherhood movement, the Salafi Libyan groups and the fighting Libyan groups, whose leaders mostly consisted of returnees from the Afghan Mujahidin war against the Soviet Union. The sources point out that “the brotherhood leaders negotiating with the regime are negotiating on behalf of the Islamist trend as a whole, not on the assumption that there are various Islamist groups. That is because the regime wants to open a channel with the Islamist trend as a whole, so that the Islamist trend recognizes the Libyan regime.”

The Libyan source added that the newly formed Libyan government opposes most of the demands of the Islamist trend which are: “Putting on trial anyone against whom there is evidence in involvement in acts of murder or torture; that the regime admit that it made mistakes in dealing with the activist detainees; that the regime reveals the fate of the activists who have been detained since the 1990s; that official death certificates stating the date and cause of death be issued for those who died in prison, and that the families of the victims be paid compensation.”