The assassination of the 54-year-old political activist and lawyer Abdelsalam al-Mismari with a bullet to the heart has seen the most violent reactions in Libya to such an event since the assassination of Major General Abdul Fatah Younis in July 2011.

The assassination of the 54-year-old political activist and lawyer Abdelsalam al-Mismari with a bullet to the heart has seen the most violent reactions in Libya to such an event since the assassination of Major General Abdul Fatah Younis in July 2011.

Although Mismari’s death was part of a series of assassinations that started months back in eastern Libya, claiming the lives of dozens of senior army and police officers, it was an obvious escalation by the culprits since for the first time it targeted a civilian who had never carried a weapon and had only fought his enemies with his pen and tongue.

Enemy of Muslim Brotherhood

Mismari was a man with clear and firm positions on issues of interest to public opinion in Libya. He was known for his strong opposition to the passage of the Political Isolation Law. He was beaten in Benghazi after a television interview on Al-Arabiya, in which he described the Political Isolation Coordination Committee as “a tool for a coup against legitimacy.”

He was also an outspoken opponent of the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom he described in his last statement posted on his Facebook page as “agents and immature politicians.”
This statement occurred in the context of his objection to a released statement signed by 35 General National Congress (GNC) members, mostly from the Brotherhood, who objected to the so-called ‘military coup in Egypt,’ and expressed solidarity with the pro-Morsi supporters who staged a sit-in in Cairo to demand his return to power.

Accelerating events

Further assassinations followed Mismari’s, in which three colonels were killed less than 24 hours later; two on the same day, and one on the following morning in Benghazi. The assassinations brought crowds of youthful protesters back onto the streets.

Protests were staged on Friday evening in most Libyan cities, denouncing the Brotherhood and demanding dissolution of political parties, pending the passage of a party law. Demonstrators also demanded the dissolution of the government and the armed militias, and the formation of a national salvation government and national army and police to protect citizens.

In Benghazi on Saturday, unidentified men also stormed into Kweffiyeh Prison and released more than 1,000 prisoners held on charges of theft, murder and even some prisoners on death row. The incident coincided with the arrival in the city of the ministers of justice and of the the minister of interior affairs to evaluate the deteriorating security situation.

In a press conference on Saturday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced his intention to make a cabinet reshuffle. He also announced that Libya sought the assistance of a specialized international forensic team due to arrive within two days, to investigate Mismari’s assassination.

Among the actions taken by the government, said Zeidan, were orders to close the land border points with Egypt, allowing the passage of goods only, to prevent fleeing prisoners from crossing into the territory of Libya’s eastern neighbour. He also explained that the Libyan authorities planned to send Egypt a list of wanted men for extradition to Libya.

List of targeted journalists published

In the meantime, an anonymous site published tens of names of journalists and political targeted activists, and then posted an additional list a few days later, including journalist Areesh Saeed.

Saeed later stressed that the lists “are not real,” because some names featured are people who “have done nothing to deserve a death threat or pursuit by death traders.”
Saeed however believes that these threats “should be taken seriously,” since those who carry out assassinations are not deterred by any moral or religious restraints.

Fear and violence returned to the streets following the assassinations all the same. Last Sunday a huge bomb targeted North Benghazi Court – site of the start of the revolution– resulting in a number of injuries and causing huge damages to the building.

Tribute to a martyr

Sunday night protests were held under the slogan ‘In tribute of a martyr… To revive the country,’ marking the assassination anniversary of Major General Younis. The event’s organizers, headed by Mismari, reiterated their demand to bring his killer to justice, but the commemorative event soon turned into demonstrations denouncing violence which dramatically escalated during the past year. Now Mismari is gone too.

The demonstration organizers released a communiqué described by Libyan author and political analyst Abdulfattah Beshti as “strongly worded, and worthy of examination.”
The communiqué included many demands which had been clandestinely circulated among young men, like “relieving Grand Mufti Sadiq Ghiryani from his post, and replacing him with a Fatwa Commission comprised of the country’s Ulema.”

The statement also demanded that “the GNC be frozen and held fully responsible for insecurity and failure to build the army in favour of foreign agendas.” The demand to freeze political parties was reiterated, in addition to dissolving the Benghazi Local Council which protestors described as belonging to the Brotherhood.

Opposition supporters accuse the Brotherhood of transforming the current government into a caretaker government, and dissolving the Electoral Commission and the Patriotism and Integrity Standard Enforcement Commission.

Oppositzion groups have also drawn up a list of demands, that include: boycott Qatar and close its embassy in Libya; freeze the Political Isolation Law and present it to the people for referendum; dissolve all brigades, shields and security committees; and enact a law incriminating weapon possession.

Opposing reaction

The GNC issued a decision assigning the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), which had previously besieged ministries in Tripoli to put pressure into approving the Political Isolation Law, and which had also been accused of threatening the GNC members opposing that law, to secure the country in coordination with the GNC ad hoc committees.

GNC President Nouri Abusahmain, in a statement on Monday, July 29, held the government responsible for the Benghazi incidents, accusing the former regime’s agents of carrying out the assassinations and bombings, aimed to destabilize the country’s security. He also criticized the media and threatened to revoke satellite channels authorizations for what he described as “media incitements.”

Benghazi, the hope

In contrast, Abdul-Fatrh Beshti, a well-known author and analyst, expressed hope vis-à-vis statements made in Benghazi by various youth factions and pointed to another communiqué released by Zawiya city’s demonstration, which he described as strong, but not stronger than that of Benghazi.

“If there is any hope for a change, it will exclusively come from Benghazi,” said Beshti, who however expressed reservation about young people’s demand to freeze political parties.
“There cannot be a political life in Libya without party presence, and those talking about a law to regulate the work of these parties are politically immature. Major parties that came to power in the world worked secretly and without regulating laws,” he explained.

However, he recognizes that “underperformance of the two parties which dominate Libya’s political landscape and their constant rivalry that has caused the country’s state of disruption have alienated young people from participation and contributed to consolidating Gaddafi’s sayings which took him decades to inculcate into young people’s minds, such as Whoever joins a party is a traitor, and Partisanship aborts democracy.

Over a week has passed since Mismari was assassinated, but fast going developments remain the order of the day. Demonstrations and road closures in Benghazi continue. The GNC goes ahead with its decision to task SRC with securing the country, and to revoke the licenses issued to some TV channels. No one can speculate when and how the rolling snowball will come to a halt.