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Judges, Lawyers Join Protests in Libya

Members of Libya's legal community have joined the demonstrations in Tripoli. A witness told The Associated Press on Monday that security forces have surrounded a courthouse where about 200 lawyers and judges have been staging a sit-in to protest against repression.

CNN reports that Libya's justice minister has resigned in protest of the "bloody situation" and the excessive force being used against demonstrators, according to Libya's Quryna newspaper, which has been pro-government but has begun to cover the country's unrest in detail. Also Monday, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations called on Moammar Gadhafi to step down, and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the "crimes against humanity committed by Gadhafi against the Libyan people," according to The Associated Press.

Amid multiple reports that Libya has begun using military planes to attack demonstrators, Malta's government officials said Monday that two Libyan Air Force pilots have defected and flown to Malta after reportedly being ordered to bomb protesters.

Also Monday, a Libyan lawyer told Reuters that members of an elite army unit known as "The Thunderbolt" had "joined the people's revolt" and overtaken an opposing force belonging to the separate Republican, or Praetorian, Guard.

And according to the Financial Times and other news media, protesters in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, say they have taken control of that city now that an army unit there has helped them overcome pro-Gadhafi security forces. (The Financial Times and other media also caution that it is difficult or impossible to verify some reports out of Libya, given that foreign journalists are typically barred from entering the country, and Libyan authorities have interrupted phone and Internet access since the start of the unrest.)

The Wall Street Journal notes that the current protests in Libya began outside Benghazi's courthouse on Feb. 15, after security forces arrested a human-rights lawyer and two relatives of people who were among the estimated 1,200 prisoners killed in a 1996 uprising that has become known as the "Abu Salim massacre." A number of the detainees in Tripoli's Abu Salim Prison had been arrested during a squelched student uprising, and many of the prisoners at that facility came from Benghazi.

Activists say the slain prisoners' relatives were at the Benghazi courthouse last week to demand government compensation for the Abu Salim killings.

As of Monday, Human Rights Watch and others were estimating that more than 200 people have died in the Libyan unrest.

For more information on the situation in Libya and the Middle East, see:

-- live updates from The Guardian's news blog

-- live blogging from al-Jazeera English

-- an interactive map of tweets on Middle East protests, from The Guardian's network of journalists, bloggers and experts

-- a photostream from a Libyan blogger, posted by the Los Angeles Times

-- Human Rights Watch report on the killing of detainees at Libya's Abu Salim prison in 1996

-- county-by-country roundup of the unrest in the Mideast and North Africa, compiled by CNN

Written by Law.com managing editor Paula Martersteck.

Posted by Laurel Newby on February 21, 2011 at 06:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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