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Libya Tobruk-based parliament fires central bank chief, threatens grand mufti

Libya's House of Representatives calls again for foreign intervention, including military assistance, as it battles against rival parliament
Former dictator Moammar Gaddafi looks on from a Libyan banknote (AFP)

Libya’s House of Representatives confirmed on Sunday that it has dismissed the head of Libya’s Central Bank, al-Sadiq al-Kabir.

Isa al-Aribi, a member of the house which is currently based in the far-eastern city of Tobruk, said that Kabir is also being referred to the general prosecutor for investigation on “a number of issues”, according to Libyan daily al-Wasat.

Kabir was dismissed after a HoR motion passed with a majority of 94 of the 102 votes cast.

However, it is initially unclear how the Tobruk-based government will implement its decision to dismiss Kabir, who is now based at the central bank headquarters.

There have been persistent rumours that Kabir had been running the central bank from Malta, after fleeing an upsurge in violence in the capital Tripoli, where the bank was based.

However, Kabir recently returned to Libya and took over the hands-on running of the bank.

Ali al-Habri, formerly deputy head of the bank, has been appointed head of the central bank on a temporary basis, until a new administrator is chosen.

After his return from Malta, Kabir accused his deputy of transferring 80m Libyan dinars (approx. $65.3m) in funds from the account of the General National Council (GNC) to that of the HoR in Tobruk without his permission.

Libya’s central bank has become caught up in the power struggles of recent months, as two opposing parliaments battle it out for influence in the battle-raged country.

On Saturday, the bank announced that Kabir had halted the transfer of funds from the GNC, the transitional body whose mandate officially expired two months but which still sits in Tripoli, to the rival government of the HoR.

Both parliaments, the recently-elected HoR based in Tobruk and the Islamist-dominated GNC in Tripoli, have demanded funds from the central bank to implement their rival budget packages.

Calls for dismissal of grand mufti

As the HoR took action against the central bank head over his perceived support for the GNC, it also warned that the country’s grand mufti could be next in the firing line.

HoR spokesperson Faraj Hashem announced on Sunday that a motion to dismiss the head of the Fatwa Council, Sadiq al-Gheryani, has been tabled in their parliament.

Hashem said that the motion was tabled due to Gheryani’s “irresponsible stance” on Libya’s bloody conflict, which has seen rival militias vie for superiority in the country’s major cities.

The HoR accused Gheryani of making statements “inciting violence.”

The sanctions come after Gheryani allegedly addressed crowds gathered in Tripoli after noon prayers last Friday.

The city has been under the control of Misrata-linked fighters calling themselves Libya Dawn since late August, and the move was widely seen as a statement of support to the militias.

Calls for outside help

As the HoR appeared to be attempting to wrest control of key institutions from the Islamist-backed GNC in Tripoli, they also appealed for outside help in tackling what they called “terrorism.”

In a press conference in Tobruk on Saturday night, Faraj Hashem told journalists that the HoR is waiting for help, including military assistance, from the international community to help establish stability in Libya.

The HoR used its first sitting in August to call for foreign intervention in Libya, and reiterated this stance on Saturday night.

There are attempts to find an international mediator to arbitrate between the warring parties in Libya.

Most recently, Jordan had been suggested as a possible neutral party able to act as a mediator.

However, Libya Dawn fighters on Sunday rejected the suggestion, telling Arabic news site Arabi21 that they consider Jordan to be an active party in the conflict.

A source from within Libya Dawn told Arabi21 that “unfortunately, Jordan has become embroiled in the conflict through its support for [General] Haftar’s forces.”

Rogue General Khalifa Haftar launched a military campaign in May with the stated aim of rooting out rival militias.

Airstrikes launched by unidentified military aircraft in Tripoli last month raised the suggestion that foreign forces were aiding Haftar’s forces.

On Saturday a group of Libyans living in London staged a protest outside the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, protesting against what they see as foreign intervention in Libya.