Libya: Gadhafi-era minister sentenced to execution

A criminal court in Libya sentenced a Gadhafi-era education minister to death on Wednesday for murder and for inciting violence during the 2011 civil war, the second such guilty verdict by the same court in recent days.

A judge in Misrata, one of the hardest-hit cities during the war, found Ahmed Ibrahim guilty of inciting residents in Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte to form armed gangs and fight the rebels that were seeking to overthrow the Libyan dictator. Ibrahim also was convicted of spreading false news through the local radio station there and terrorizing and demoralizing the public.

The judge also found him guilty of killing a man named Moftah Sadiq el-Sofrani after kidnapping him from a hospital, as well as giving orders to kidnap and kill five other people from the same family.

The el-Sofrani family’s lawyer, Salim Dans, said the ruling will be sent to Libya’s Supreme Court, which will either accept the initial sentencing or accept an appeal, if filed.

According to Libyan law, Ibrahim would be executed by a firing squad. No time frame was given.

The same court sentenced security official Masnour Al-Daw Gadhafi to death several days ago for his role in the civil war, according to Nasser Jibril, a journalist in Misrata who attended both trials. The security chief belongs to the Gadhafi family and had headed one of Libya’s most-hated security bodies called the Popular Guard. He also had been captured by rebels.

Libya’s new rulers, while struggling to impose their authority, restore security and overhaul key ministries, have argued that their courts are able to conduct fair trials for Gadhafi loyalists.

However, the International Criminal Court in The Hague and international rights groups have questioned the North African country’s ability to do so. They have urged Libya’s rulers to hand over key figures for trial abroad, such as Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who is being held by a militia in the western mountain town of Zintan.

The eight-month civil war swept Gadhafi from power, but left behind lingering bitterness and rage in a country where the authoritarian government imprisoned, tortured and killed its opponents. Many who survived the civil war, which killed thousands, have settled old scores themselves rather than wait for justice in a court. One such example is Gadhafi, who was captured by rebel forces in October 2011 and killed.

Meanwhile Wednesday, officials said gunmen killed a former top official in the country’s newly formed security force. Ahmed el-Borghathi was forced to pull over his vehicle in Benghazi and shot twice in the head, authorities said. It follows a string of killings targeting police and military in the east.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf expressed concerns over the growing violence in Libya.

“We condemn the use of violence in all of its forms, and urge all sides to exercise restraint and restore calm,” she said Wednesday. “We will continue to make clear going forward that violence is not in the interest of the Libyan people and only counters the process they have made and need to keep making in their democratic transition.”

A day earlier, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Salam Gadallah al-Obeidi was sworn in by parliament as the new army chief of staff. He hails from one of the biggest tribes in the country and replaces Youssef al-Mangoush, who resigned after clashes between protesters in Benghazi and a government-aligned militia he was in charge of killed 31 people.