By Alexandra Valiente
Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai served his country for over 40 years, working abroad as a diplomat and as a minister in Libya.
He was born in the village of Al Zwaya in the south of Libya in August, 1942. He graduated from Cairo University in 1968 from the faculty of Law and holds a foundation (pre-doctorate) diploma in International relations.
After graduating in 1968, he worked in the Public Prosecution’s office in Tripoli until the 1969 revolution. Following that event, he held numerous positions within the Libyan Government which included:
- Director of the Libyan Broadcasting Center in 1970
- Under Secretary of the Ministry of Media in 1972
- Minister of the Ministry of Media in 1975
- Assistant in the Libya’s General People’s Congress 1978
- Minister of Justice and the Interior in 1982
- Ambassador of Libya to Morocco in 1984
- Representative of Libya at the United Nations Security Council 1994
- Minister of Justice and the Interior in 1997
- Ambassador of Libya to the United kingdom in 2000
- Ambassador of Libya to Morocco in 2007
- Secretary General of Libya’s General People’s Congress 2010
After the fall of Tripoli, he was taken by Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his brigades to various locations, finally ending up in a holding cell at the Mitiga air force base.
There, he was stripped of all personal belongings and confined for three months in a small cell shared with two other inmates. They slept on a bare floor and were not permitted to leave the cell. The door only opened when food was brought to them each day.
Then, without authorities notifying his family or friends, he was blindfolded and transferred to a secret location. It was later discovered he was being kept at the former Police Academy of Hadba Al Khadra in Tripoli, which is now called Maslahat al-iIslah wa Ta’heel (Correction and Rehabilitation Institute) in Alhadba Alkhadra, officially part of the Ministry of Justice, but essentially run by local rebel militias.
Shortly after his transfer he was approached and offered his freedom if he would pay an exorbitant sum of money. As he was innocent of any crime and had never shed blood, he refused and opted to remain in custody, under what he knew were precarious circumstances, along with other fellow members of the former government.
After this, he was subjected to extraordinary harsh treatment as the torture began.
He was interrogated whilst blindfolded and was subjected to crude and offensive verbal abuse by a group of unidentified men during an informal investigation that would continue for hours at a time. After months of torment, through intervention from human rights groups, the torture ceased.
As he awaited the commencement of an official investigation into his alleged crimes, his family petitioned Mustafa Abdul Jalil to release him on compassionate grounds, given his age and numerous health challenges, with the written promise that he would return to be present at any stage of the judicial proceedings. Their appeal was denied.
At this point, Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai had been detained for over eight months, (September 2011- May 2012) without charges or an appearance before a judge.
In January of 2012, he was questioned by the Public Prosecution, where they attempted to implicate him in wrong-doing with regards to the Lockerbie case and the “squandering of public funds”.
In May, 2012, the Judicial Police began an investigation, which resulted in the leveling of purely fabricated charges, which included:
- The squandering of public funds.
- The sale of the Libyan School in London, which procured the necessary funds to provide Libya’s diplomatic mission with an official residence.
- His 40 years of service in varying positions in the former government.
Since leaving the Mitiga air force base, Mohammed continued his imprisonment at the Maslahat al-iIslah wa Ta’heel (Correction and Rehabilitation Institute) in Alhadba Alkhadra.
For a short while he shared a cell with other inmates, including Dr.Abuzaid Dorda.
However, in October, 2012, he and his cell mates were placed in solitary confinement, where they have remained to the present day.
Confined in a small cell with only a mattress on the floor, the prisoners are exposed to extreme heat in summer and cold in winter. They are denied fresh air and exercise. They are given foods they are unable to eat due to their deteriorating health and preexisting medical conditions. All of the prisoners suffer from sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression.
Their medical needs are not being met, resulting in increasing and alarming health complications.
Mohammed’s family fear he will not receive a fair trial. His lawyer has been denied access to files vital to his client’s case that impede his ability to defend him and prove his innocence.
The family’s access to Mohammed has been limited. Even when they have arranged visits and they have been officially approved months in advance, they are turned away upon arrival at the prison.
The family never know if they will be detained when they attempt to visit.
They have endured assassination attempts, the loss of their home, poverty following the freezing of their bank accounts and unrelenting trauma.
Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai’s trial is taking place now.
His family have asked for the public’s assistance in appealing to the following:
- Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, requesting that they attend Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai’s trial to assure it is fair.
The current Libyan authorities, demanding that:
- Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai’s lawyer have access to all information necessary for his proper defense,
- that he be detained in humane conditions,
- that his urgent medical needs be properly and thoroughly addressed immediately.
The family stated that for over 40 years Mohammed Abu Alqasim Azwai has given everything for Libya and the Libyan people. All that he asks in return for his years of service is justice, a fair trial, humane treatment and his basic human rights.
Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi And Mohammed Al-Zwai Go On Trial September 10, 2012
Trials For Dr. Abuzaid Dorda, Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi And Mohammed Al-Zwai Delayed Pending Decision On Their Legitimacy
Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi And Mohammed Al-Zwai’s Trial Postponed Until October 15, 2012