Libya says Islamist militant hanged self in jail

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Libya’s state prosecutor says the death of a Libyan Islamist whose bogus testimony about al Qaeda was used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was suicide.

It was Libya‘s first official reaction since Libyan Ali Mohamed Abdelaziz al Fakhiri, also known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, was reported to have killed himself on May 9 at the high-security Abu Salim prison on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Rights groups had urged Libya to conduct a thorough inquiry into the death of Fakhiri, a former prisoner in a secret US system of detention and transfers who was handed over to Libya and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008, Reuters adds.

They say his death shows the risks that many prisoners remaining in the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay could face if they are sent back to their home countries.

“The forensic pathologist confirmed the death was the result of suffocation from hanging. Nothing contrasts with the conclusion that the death was suicide,” the Libyan prosecutor’s office said in a statement in the government-run newspaper al Jamahiriya.

Another Libyan newspaper, Oea, had reported on May 10 that Fakhiri had committed suicide and that Libya, an ally in Washington‘s fight against al Qaeda, was investigating.

The paper, close to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, said Fakhiri had been an inmate at Guantanamo Bay.

“The state general prosecutor began investigating (Fakhiri’s death) immediately … and took all the required legal measures in the presence of the forensic pathologist,” the prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying.

Fakhiri’s case has drawn attention because of his testimony about links between al Qaeda and Iraq after his capture in Pakistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Fakhiri made up the story to avoid torture while in the custody of a third country, according to a 2006 US Senate Intelligence Committee report.

US human rights groups have said he provided the account to interrogators in Egypt, where he was sent by the United States in January 2002.

Fakhiri later recanted, the US committee said. He was sent secretly to Libya by the United States in 2006.

The prosecutor office’s statement suggested that Fakhiri had been kept in custody in Libya until his conviction last year.

Government officials in Tripoli were not immediately available to give more details on his detention. The prosecutor’s office said he was jailed for life in “state security case number 23 for the year 2008”.



US President Barack Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo by early 2010 and is lobbying allies in Europe to accept prisoners who are not seen to pose a security threat but cannot return to their home countries because of a risk of torture. (