Libya suspends national congress meetings after violent protest

Ahram Online , Sunday 10 Mar 2013

Sessions of General National Congress paused after protesters attack headquarters to demand adoption of law excluding Gaddafi-era officials from political office

Libyan National Congress President Mohammed Maqrif (C) arrives with Congress member and spokesman Omar Humaidan (L) for a joint news conference at the headquarters of the National Congress' Office in Tripoli March 9, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Libya's General National Congress (GNC) has suspended its meetings due to safety concerns after hundreds of protesters besieged the building on Tuesday to coerce its members to adopt the controversial Political Isolation Law, Libya's Al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday.

"We don't have a secured hall for meetings, and members cannot gather under gun and terrorism threats," the newspaper quoted GNC President Mohamed Maqrif as saying during a press conference held at the GNC headquarters on Saturday.

The GNC president said discussions on the state budget, isolation law, and 'constitutional entitlement' were interrupted by violent protests that lasted for several hours.

"The GNC expected Libyans to express their demands by legitimate means rather than violence and force," he noted.

The GNC is currently debating the so-called Isolation Law, which will exclude officials close to ousted-leader Muammar Gaddafi from official positions in state institutions for ten years.

According to All Africa website, the current form of the bill includes 36 categories of individuals who were involved in the "corruption of political, economic, social and administrative life during the Gaddafi era."

Security and Instability

Libya has suffered from unrest since the end of the 2011 revolt that toppled Gaddafi. On Thursday, gunmen stormed the headquarters of a private TV station and took away the channel's owner and four journalists.

The GNC's human rights commission said Alassema TV owner Jomaa Al-Osta and four of his staff were abducted by "unknown assailants."

The commission urged the interior ministry "to intervene immediately to release the prisoner." The TV channel announced their release on Friday.

Staff members told AFP the kidnappers were angry about the editorial policies of the TV station, which is known to be close to Libya's liberal coalition that came ahead of Islamists in last July's legislative elections.

Mohammed Al-Sharkassi, an anchor at Alassema TV who was among those released, said the assailants "identified themselves as former rebels."

They objected, in particular, to a draft law that would exclude from political life officials who served during Gaddafi's rule.

The law has caused a stir among Libya's ruling elite as it threatens to sideline senior political figures, including Mahmoud Jibril, who heads the National Forces Alliances coalition and was an architect of the 2011 revolt.

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