Libya Puts 331 People on Trial
Jan. 24, 2001
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ Libya put 331 people on trial Tuesday for rioting and murder, charges that stem from four days of deadly September clashes between Libyans and workers from other African countries.
Reading the charges, presiding Judge Abdel Rahman Abu Touta said the defendants are accused of ``committing hostile acts against the regime and inciting sedition between Libyans and their African guests.'' The defendants are also charged with murder and violating the sanctity of homes, among other offenses.
The defendants include 300 Libyan citizens and 31 nationals of other African states. It was unclear what sentences they would face if convicted. The trial was to continue on Jan. 31.
At least seven people were killed in the riots in Az Zawiyah, 25 miles west of Tripoli, and neighboring towns.
The unrest embarrassed the government, which takes a strong pro-Africa stance in foreign policy. In a New Year's address, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi expressed his ``deepest regret for the events'' and claimed there was a ``conspiracy to destabilize Libya's leadership of Africa.''
The government has not said why the riots broke out, but the London-based newspaper Al Hayat said they were sparked by a minor dispute between Libyans and foreigners in Az Zawiyah.
The government also has not said how many people were killed and wounded. Al Hayat reported that some 50 workers from Chad and Sudan died. Hospital sources said at the time that the death toll was seven.
Hundreds of thousands of Africans have come to Libya in search of work during the past two years.
Gadhafi focused Libya's foreign policy toward Africa rather than Arab states in 1998 after the Organization of African Unity backed a call to break U.N. sanctions on flights to Libya. The Arab League did not support violation of the embargo, which was imposed to force Libya to hand over two citizens wanted in connection with 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The U.N. sanctions were suspended in 1999 after the two Libyans flew to the Netherlands to stand trial.