The Middle East Channel

What if Libya staged a revolution and nobody came?

Protests erupted in Libya Tuesday evening in the eastern center of Benghazi, prompted by the arrest of Libyan attorney and human rights activist Fathi Terbil early Tuesday morning — two days ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated Feb. 17 "Day of Rage" planned in cities across the country. Terbil represents a group of families whose sons ...

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Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi gestures at supporters while standing behind bulletproof glass during a ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammed in Tripoli on February 13, 2011. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Protests erupted in Libya Tuesday evening in the eastern center of Benghazi, prompted by the arrest of Libyan attorney and human rights activist Fathi Terbil early Tuesday morning — two days ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated Feb. 17 "Day of Rage" planned in cities across the country. Terbil represents a group of families whose sons were massacred by Libyan authorities in 1996 in Tripoli’s infamous Abu Salim prison, where an estimated 1,200 prisoners, mostly opponents of the regime, were rounded up and gunned down in the span of a few hours. The victims’ bodies were reportedly removed from the prison (eyewitness accounts cite the use of wheel barrows and refrigerated trucks) and buried in mass graves, the whereabouts of which remain undisclosed by Libyan authorities to this day. Several years would pass before the regime finally began to notify some of the victims’ families of the deaths, and it wasn’t until 2004 that Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi publicly admitted to the massacre at Abu Salim.

Terbil had been working closely with the victims’ families, who in recent years have asked that authorities make public the circumstances surrounding the killings, as well as the location of the victims’ graves. After Terbil’s arrest Tuesday morning, several of the families gathered in front of police headquarters in the city of Benghazi to demand his release. According to sources inside the country, other Benghazi residents gradually began to join them, and by evening the crowd had swelled, with unconfirmed estimates ranging from several hundred to 2,000 protesters.

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