TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Libya Puts Blogger in Prison

Libya Puts Blogger in Prison

Jasper Mortimer (
Fri, 4 Nov 2005 11:05:43 -0600

By JASPER MORTIMER, Associated Press Writer

Libya has sent to prison for 18 months a blogger who criticized the
government on the Internet, Human Rights Watch says in a report that
inspired a series of Web tributes to the dissident Friday.

A Tripoli court convicted Abdel Raziq al-Mansuri of illegal possession
of a handgun and sentenced him to 18 months' imprisonment on Oct. 19,
the New York-based rights group said in an e-mail to The Associated
Press in Cairo.

"The gun charges are a ruse," said the Middle Eastern director of HRW,
Sarah Leah Whitson. "The authorities went after al-Mansuri because
they did not like what he wrote. Having him in prison will shut him up."

Al-Mansuri, 52, was detained in Tobruk, his hometown, in January after
publishing about 50 articles critical of Libyan society and government
on a dissident Web site based in Britain,,
the rights group said Thursday.

Libyan government officials were not available for comment Friday as
the country was celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows the
holy month of Ramadan.

The rights group, who visited al-Mansuri in Tripoli's Abu Selim prison
on May 5, said his family published the outcome of his trial in an
Oct. 27 letter to the government, media and rights organizations that
condemned al-Mansuri's detention and sentence.

"Such outspoken criticism is rare in Libya," said Human Rights Watch.
Politics has been tightly controlled in the country since Col. Moammar
Gadhafi seized power in 1969.

The letter said the authorities had asked family members to denounce
al-Mansuri as mentally deranged.

"If defending the right to free speech, and asking for basic human
rights is insane in our country, then welcome to a family that is,
from its oldest to its youngest, insane," the letter said, according
to Human Rights Watch.

The letter added that in sentencing al-Mansuri, the court had refused
to give him credit for the months in detention he had already served.

The rights group said that after detaining al-Mansuri, Libyan security
officials searched his home and "found an old pistol that belonged to
his father."

The group reported the head of the Internal Security Agency,
Col. Tuhami Khaled, as denying that al-Mansuri was arrested for his
Internet writings.

"He was arrested because he had a gun without a license," the group
quoted Khaled as telling its representatives in May.

Asked why the Internal Security Agency was detaining al-Mansuri
instead of the police, Khaled replied that the pistol was "a job for
internal security," the group said.

On Friday, the Web site carried numerous
statements of support for al-Mansuri from Libyans in exile and human
rights groups.

"With his courage and truthful words, Abdel Raziq managed to break the
barrier of fear. He has moved from the big prison (Libya) to a smaller
one," said Ahmed Masoud Al-Ghabali, a Libyan who recalled meeting
al-Mansuri in Britain.

The site itself said he had been arrested for writing articles that
"demanded freedom of expression and denounced human rights abuses in

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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