Skip to main content

Jordan to release Libyan militant in exchange for ambassador

Jordan has agreed to release a jailed Libyan militant in exchange for their ambassador, according to local media
Jordan's ambassador to Libya was kidnapped by armed men in the capital Tripoli two weeks ago (AFP)

Jordanian authorities have agreed to repatriate a Libyan prisoner in exchange for the release of its ambassador, who was kidnapped by militiamen in the capital Tripoli two weeks ago, according to local media.

“The Jordanian authorities expressed their total readiness to solve this crisis, confirming that the ambassador will be released in exchange for reducing the term of the Libyan prisoner and sending him home to complete his sentence” Sohar Banun, undersecretary in Libya’s justice ministry, was quoted as saying by state news agency LANA on Monday.

“The crisis will be solved according to a memorandum of understanding between the two countries,” he added.

No further details or timeframe were mentioned by Banun and neither Jordanian nor Libyan authorities have commented further.

Armed men who abducted Jordanian ambassador Fawaz al-Itan on 15 April had demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan who was jailed for life in 2007 for plotting to blow up the main airport in Jordan.

A timeline of kidnappings in Libya, beginning with the seizing of former prime minister Ali Zeidan last November, reveals a consistent trend of politically motivated abductions concentrated in Tripoli but also occuring elsewhere.

The interim government has been unable to disarm militia groups that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and they continue to wield significant influence in fragile political conditions.

Two Tunisian diplomats kidnapped by militias in Tripoli over the past month are being used as leverage to secure the release of Libyan militants jailed in Tunisia for attacking the security forces in 2011, according to Tunisian authorities.

Undersecretary Banun suggested in his statement on Tuesday that efforts are ongoing to secure the release of the kidnapped diplomats.

“Regarding the file of Libyans jailed in Tunisia … Tunisia confirms its wish to cooperate with the Libyan government, especially with the kidnapping of the Tunisian diplomats” he was quoted as saying in the LANA statement.

While Banun’s comments suggest Libyan authorities have a semblance of control over negotiating an end to kidnap incidents, analysts say it is the militias who retain ultimate power.

 “The Jordanians have backed down, given the kidnappers what they want, and the Libyan authorities should be easily able to negotiate a deal securing the ambassador’s release” said Jason Pack, researcher of Middle East history at Cambridge University and president of Libyaanalysis.com.

“By acquiescing to the militia’s demands authorities are setting a dangerous precedent” he added. “Both governments should have avoided giving in to the kidnappers, ridden out the consequences and shown there is a price to pay when international norms are violated”.

Militias have used kidnap as a successful bargaining chip in the past, most recently in March when five Egyptian Embassy staff were kidnapped in Tripoli by a militia group whose leader was being held in a Cairo prison. Egypt freed Libyan military commander Shabaan Hadiya shortly after the diplomats were released.  

Libya’s Constituent Assembly began the drafting process for a new constitution last Monday but with incidents of kidnap showing no sign of abating there remain substantial challenges if authorities are to achieve peace and stability.