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Libya former leader grilled over general's murder

By AFP
By AFP

12/12/2012 12:00:03 AM -

TRIPOLI (AFP) - Libyan military prosecutors grilled former transitional leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Tuesday over the murder of Abdel Fatah Yunes, a general who led rebel forces last year, the official news agency LANA reported.

"The military prosecutor led an interrogation that lasted three hours with Mustafa Abdel Jalil," ex-chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), a political body representing the rebels during the 2011 conflict, the agency said.

Abdel Jalil was interrogated away from the premises of the military court of the city of Benghazi to avoid a sit-in held there, LANA added, citing a source in the office of the military prosecutor for east Libya.

Yunes, the highest-ranking military figure to join the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi's regime last year, was killed in July 2011 in murky circumstances after being recalled from the front line for questioning.

Abdel Jalil announced Yunes's death on July 29, 2011, saying that he had been shot and killed by an armed group as he was brought in to be questioned by a panel of judges over the military situation.

His burned and bullet-ridden body was found on the outskirts of Benghazi.

Members of the powerful Al-Obeidi tribe to which the general belonged warned last month that they would take justice into their own hands if Libya's new authorities continued to "neglect the case".

They openly accuse Abdel Jalil of playing a role in the murder.

Recently, the Yunes family's lawyer Youssef Aguila told AFP that the military prosecutor has to determine whether Abdel Jalil will be examined as a witness or accused.

"Since he was responsible for the political phase (after the fall of Kadhafi's regime), if he is accused, he should be accused of abuse of power or inciting murder," he said.

A hearing has been set for February 20, 2013 and the attorney general could extend the investigation to other persons suspected of being involved in the general's assassination.

Thirteen people have been formally accused of involvement in the affair so far, including Judge Jumaa al-Jazwi, who signed the order to arrest Yunes. Jazwi was himself assassinated in June this year.

Yunes played an instrumental role in the February 18-20 liberation of Benghazi, cradle of the anti-Kadhafi revolution, where he brokered a ceasefire at a besieged military base in the centre of the city, permitting loyalists to flee.

But despite his early defection, many rebels put little faith in the general, who was part of the circle of officers that helped bring Kadhafi to power in a 1969 bloodless coup.

Some blamed him directly for lack of progress in the NATO-backed rebel offensive against Kadhafi's regime. It took eight months of pitched battles across the country before the veteran strongman was finally toppled.

The NTC at the time set up a committee to investigate Yunes's death, which has also been blamed on radical Islamists. The case was later referred to a civil court, which then passed it on to the military court.

Abdel Jalil, 60, was justice minister until his defection in February 2011. He led the opposition during the war and guided Libya through a turbulent transition that culminated in July with democratic elections.

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By: Bismark Omari Somuah