Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan answers questions during a press conference in Tripoli, on April 8, 2013
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan answers questions during a press conference in Tripoli, on April 8, 2013. A top aide to Zeidan who was kidnapped at the end of last month in a Tripoli suburb has been released, according to a source close to the cabinet. © Mahmud Turkia - AFP/File
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan answers questions during a press conference in Tripoli, on April 8, 2013
AFP
Last updated: April 9, 2013

Kidnapped top aide of Libyan premier freed

A top aide to Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan abducted last month has been released, a source close to the cabinet said on Tuesday, the same day parliament adopted a law setting penalties for kidnapping.

"Mohammed Ali al-Gattus, an adviser and head of the premier's office, was freed on Monday and is now with his close ones and in good health," the source told AFP, asking for anonymity.

"We don't at present have information on the kidnappers or their motives."

Gattus was abducted on March 31 as he drove to the capital from Libya's third city Misrata. His car was found in Tajura, an eastern suburb of Tripoli, after he was apparently stopped at a fake checkpoint.

Just hours beforehand, the premier had said his cabinet was working under "very difficult conditions" and that "death threats" had been made against members of the government.

Faced with rising instability, Libya's new authorities have promised to deal firmly with militias, which are a legacy of the uprising that overthrew veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in October 2011.

Tensions have been rising between the government and the militias for weeks, after the launch of a campaign aimed at dislodging the armed groups from the capital.

On Tuesday, parliament adopted a law setting out penalties not only for kidnapping, but also for torture and discrimination, ranging from one year to life in prison.

Ibrahim al-Faryani, an MP from the liberal Alliance of National Forces, said this was "an important step toward the establishment of human rights and the respect for liberties."

According to parliament spokesman Omar Hmeidan, kidnapping is punishable by seven years in prison, rising to eight if ransom has been obtained.

As for "physical or spiritual" torture, the punishment is five years and is equally applicable to anyone who is in a position to prevent the offence from happening. In cases of severe injury, the term rises to 10 years and, if death results, to life in prison.

The law also sets a penalty of one year in prison for any official found guilty of discriminating against citizens for regional, tribal or racial reasons.

Hmeidan acknowledged implementation of the law would be "difficult," and called on citizens to press for its application.

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