Libya Arrests Two on Spying Charges

Libya’s security service announced on January 18, 2011 that two men, members of the country’s Amazigh Berber minority, had been arrested on charges of spying for a foreign intelligence agency. Mazigh and Maghris Bouzahar, who happen to be twin brothers, are being investigated by the state prosecutor while in detention.

This announcement came as a result of a request by Amnesty International for the Libyan government to clarify the location and legal status of four men – the brothers and two Moroccan nationals. The rights organization has expressed fear that all four men were being held solely for their connection to the Amazigh Berber culture, whose existence is denied by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi. Kadhafi has maintained since his rise to power in 1969 that the tribe no longer exists in Libya, though the Berbers currently account for approximately 10% of Libya’s population. Concerns about the reasons for the arrest were raised when officials confiscated numerous materials, including books and a computer, related to the minority group from the Bouzahar brothers’ home after their December 16 arrest.

The Moroccan men were identified by Amnesty International as members of the Royal Institute of Berber Culture. They went missing after traveling from Tunisia to Libya on December 19. Libya’s security organization also confirmed, in their recent announcement, that these two men had been freed.

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