from AHMED ZAYED in Tripoli, Libya
TRIPOLI, (CAJ News) – LIBYAN authorities have tortured a Russian sociologist and his interpreter arrested three months ago on trumped-up charges of attempting to influence the outcome of elections in the troubled North African country.
Maxim Shugaley, a sociologist with the Russian Foundation for the Protection of National Values, and his interpreter are kept at a prison following their arrest in the capital, Tripoli, in May.
A third Russian national had reportedly left the country before security services raided their residence.
The arrest has been shrouded in secrecy and was only made public earlier this month after a Western media outlet published an article. The fact that Libyan lawyers are not willing to work with Russian citizens complicates the two’s bid for freedom.
Individuals working with Russians risk arrest.
According to a letter from Libyan prosecutors, the two Russians were arrested on allegations of attempting to organise a secret meeting with Saif Islam Gaddafi, a son of Libya’s former long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown and murdered in 2011.
Saif is a potential candidate for the country’s presidential elections (https://sputniknews.com/africa/201907051076161958-russian-foreign-ministry-checking-reports-of-detention-of-2-russian-citizens-in-tripoli/)).
Dates for the polls have not been set because of the instability characterizing Libya, especially around the capital city, which has been the centre of conflict between rival groups.
Conflict emanates from eastern-based commander, Khalifa Haftar, launching a military assault in April.
Alexander Malkevich, the head of the Russian Foundation for the Protection of National Values, said the two citizens had been tortured behind bars.
Malkevich said as members of a research group, the Russian pair was engaged exclusively in conducting sociological surveys and studying humanitarian, cultural and political situation in the country ahead of potential elections.
The arrest has raised concern as the foreign nationals entered the country legally and notified authorities on the purpose of their visit.
Speaking at a press conference, Malkevich argued that the harassment of the Russian citizens was in reaction by authorities to outcomes of research indicating that Libyan citizens did not support the current administration but have good memories of the Gaddafi regime.
Western forces were instrumental in Gaddafi’s overthrow.
Under Gaddafi, the oil rich Libya had a vibrant economy and stable government.
It has degenerated into anarchy following his overthrow and is now run by rival groups along ethnic lines.
The arrest of the two Russians brings to four the number of citizens from the country illegally detained in Libyan jails.
Two sailors were arrested three years ago.
More than 200 foreigners are jailed under horrific conditions.
Earlier this month, an airstrike hit a detention center for immigrants in the Libyan capital early Wednesday, killing at least 44 people and injuring more than 130 others.
– CAJ News