Libyans came together in Algeria Square in Tripoli on Friday in protest to ask the Libyan Authorities to review the illegal arrest, abduction and torture of neurosurgeon Dr Hisham Anour Ben Khayal. He was abducted on the 1st of April by Al-Zawiya ’rebels’ on the grounds of neglect over the death of an anti Gaddafi freedom fighter.
The surgeon denies the allegations that he deliberately withheld treatment of Fathi Mohamed About Shanaf who came to the hospital 35days after his initial injury where he received two operations under a different surgeon.
The case has now been elevated from a case of neglect to an act for a criminal court hearing, under the charges of murder. The trial will be carried out in the town of Al-Zawiya, where the deceased, Fathi Mohamed About Shanaf, is originally from.
To carry out the trial in his home town is unusual not only because the offence took place in Tripoli, but also it is feared that a fair trial can not be conducted in a town where the deceased family members make up some of the militia that govern the area.
Being a prestigious Neurosurgeon Dr Hisham, before the revolution, previously treated Muammar Gaddafi. During the revolution Dr Hisham saved hundreds of lives. At the protest I spoke with the mother of a Tuwar (freedom fighter) who’s life he had saved during the February 17th uprising (pictured here with the daughter of Dr Hisham). This is an example of the allegations that now face many who were previously associated, in any way, with the old regime.
”What we are witnessing here is revenge, not justice. It is extremely dangerous when relatives of the deceased are the ones deciding on the fate of the alleged perpetrator,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
“The Libyan authorities must ensure that Hisham Anour Ben Khayal is treated fairly and that an independent medical review into the cause of Fathi Mohamed Abou Shanaf’s death and the treatment he received in hospital is conducted”
Dr Fathom Abouzakhar, head of the Amazigh National Conference, who’s language was previously illegal under the Gaddafi regime, talked of the treatment Dr Hisham carried out on his daughter.
“I’ve known him for two years since he had to operate on my daughters head, because she had a tumour. I knew it was a dangerous operation, very delicate, with a low percentage of success, but he did it. I wanted to say to the world he is a very humble person, very skilled in his profession”
His children and wife were also present at the protest, for what was clearly an emotional day.
His eldest daughter, Rawia, expressed ” I really want to see my dad, its 80 days now of illegal detention, what next, nobody knows. We all wanted freedom, a different Libya, I’m just so sad for what is going on in Libya right now, there is no reaction, everybody is just standing by, and saying ‘inshallah it will be better’, when?”
Human Rights watch Libya and Libya Mother and Child Resource were also present, and called for Libyans and the international community to speak out.
As Libya moves forward to the elections, there is amazing progress, bearing in mind we are a country recently raised from war. However transparency is key, the Libyan media must shed light on the good and the bad stories if we are to push forward with a truly democratic Libya.
We have a huge task ahead of us, and cases like this will be a real test for the judicial system, especially if Libya is intent of running the trial of Saif Gaddafi on home soil.