Libyan Leader Pledges ‘Moderate’ Muslim Nation, Probe Into Qaddafi’s Death
The chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said the country will be a “moderate” Muslim nation, responding to concern the interim government wants to adopt a strict Islamic orientation.
“Libyans are Muslims, but we are moderate Muslims,” Abdel Jalil said in the eastern city of Benghazi yesterday, following his vow to scrap statutes that don’t conform to Islamic law. The changes would include banning interest on housing loans and application of the Islamic legal code to marriage and divorce.
Talks on a new government will be completed in two weeks, and the NTC will heed international calls to investigate whether former dictator Muammar Qaddafi was executed after being captured, Abdel Jalil said yesterday.
Libyans have been lining up to see Qaddafi’s body in the western city of Misrata. He and one of his sons, Mutassim, will be interred at an undisclosed desert location today, according to Al Arabiya.
Conflicting reports on how the former leader died have emerged, with groups such as Human Rights Watch saying videos and other evidence suggest he was executed after being captured. One video shows Qaddafi alive and later with a gunshot wound to his head after being beaten by fighters.
The NTC has formed a committee to investigate what happened, said Abdel Jalil, who added a twist to his previous assertions that Qaddafi died in a “crossfire.” He may have been killed by loyalists at the scene to silence him, Abdel Jalil said.
“We have to ask: Who has an interest in Qaddafi not being put on trial?” he said. “Those who were assisting him.”
Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said he was surprised by the international interest in the circumstances of the death.
“Where were they when Qaddafi buried 1,200 of our youth in the Abu Salim prison?” he said to reporters in Banghazi. “Where were they when he murdered people in streets, squares and schools? Where was the West that made agreements with him?”
Separately, Human Rights Watch called on the NTC to investigate the “apparent execution” of 53 Qaddafi supporters at a hotel in Sirte last week. The New York-based group also said the council has failed to secure “vast amounts” of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, tanks and mortar rounds.
Hotel Mahari is in an area of the city that was under the control of anti-Qaddafi fighters from Misrata before the killings took place, the group said on its website. The bodies were clustered together, probably where they had been killed, on the grass in the sea-view garden of the hotel, the group said.
“Some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the New York-based group.
The killings highlight an issue raised with the new Libyan leaders by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her Oct. 18 visit to Tripoli, when she warned against “revenge and score-settling.”
Abdel Jalil urged “forgiveness and reconciliation” in his Oct. 23 address to the nation marking liberation, as Libyans raised the tricolor flag that emerged as a symbol of their revolt. He knelt on the ground to thank God as he declared an end to Qaddafi’s rule.
The declaration of national liberation set in motion a process in which a new interim government would be announced within about a month and the first elections held within eight months.
“We, as an Islamic state, have adopted the Islamic Shariah as the main source of legislation,” Abdel Jalil said. “Any law that runs contrary to the Islamic principles of the Islamic Shariah is legally void.”
Libya’s banking industry will be Shariah-compliant because interest “brings about diseases and creates hatred,” and Islamic law will govern marriage and divorce, he said.
Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20 followed eight months of fighting between his loyalists and the one-time rebels who have run the country since seizing Tripoli, the capital, in August.
Qaddafi is the third autocrat to be deposed and the first to die in this year’s Arab Spring uprisings. Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in January. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was toppled a month later and is currently on trial, accused of conspiring to kill protesters who opposed his rule.
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