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Libya's Khalifa Haftar accused of murder and torture in US lawsuit

Families are seeking justice and restitution from Haftar and his sons Khalid and Saddam for 2014 killings in Benghazi
Haftar is former CIA asset who US hoped could topple longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (AFP)
By in
Washington

Two Libyan families have filed a lawsuit against Khalifa Haftar in a US court, alleging that forces loyal to the eastern military commander tortured their family members to death.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs state that in 2014, forces under Haftar and his sons' command captured the Suyid family home in Benghazi during an offensive against the Islamic State (IS) group.

When Adel Salam al-Suyid, and his son, Ibrahim, rushed home to rescue other family members, they were captured and kidnapped. The next day, their bodies were discovered bearing signs of torture.

Two days later, other forces under Haftar's command attacked the Krshiny home, killing two family members.

Six brothers from the family were taken prisoner and accused of being members of IS.

'We are pursuing these claims in a United States federal court because of an available US law, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and the lack of due process in Libya'

- Kevin Carroll, attorney

Ibrahim al-Krshiny, already injured in the eye from the attack on the house, was stripped naked and then beaten on the head with pipes, cables and a broomstick, according to the lawsuit. Then, over the next seven and a half hours, he was subjected to electric shocks.

Krshiny was eventually released but lost an eye as a result of the abuse, according to his lawsuit. His brother Mustafa's body was found days later, his hands tied behind his back and bullet holes in his head and chest. Another brother, Ali, was also fatally and three others were wounded.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in the State of Virginia on Tuesday, the families are seeking restitution from Haftar and his sons using the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, which allows family members of victims of extrajudicial killings and torture to sue the people responsible.

The law is aimed at perpetrators of torture who are acting under apparent government authority.

According to the lawsuit, which can be accessed below, Haftar, a dual Libyan-American citizen, and his sons own multiple properties in Virginia worth a total of at least $8m.

"We are pursuing these claims in a United States federal court because of an available US law, the Torture Victim Protection Act, and the lack of due process in Libya," Kevin Carroll, the attorney representing the al-Krshiny and al-Suyid families, told Middle East Eye.

"We are confident the plaintiffs will succeed and are hopeful that they receive financial damages," Carroll said.

During the administration of Ronald Reagan, Haftar was a CIA asset who Washington hoped could help topple longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Prior to being recruited to US intelligence, he was an aide to Gaddafi.

Haftar turned on the Libyan leader in 1987, but an attempted coup never came to fruition, and he and his allies eventually came to the US for protection. 

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Haftar's family, including his sons Khalid and Saddam, settled in northern Virginia, where they reportedly bought a total of 17 properties.

In 2011, when Gaddafi was ousted by rebels and later killed, Haftar returned to Libya and served as the head of the military for Libya's internationally recognised government, the Government of National Accord (GNA).

He has since turned on Tripoli, accusing the the UN-recognised government of being a safe haven for armed groups and militias.

Since April, his forces have laid siege to the capital and are fighting the interim government with the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russian mercenaries.

United Nations-sponsored talks between the factions resumed in Geneva on Tuesday, a day after the European Union agreed to launch a new mission in the Mediterranean Sea to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya that is routinely flouted.