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Al-Asbali speaks out on his abduction

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LIBYAPROSPECT – London

The Libyan blogger and journalist, Ali Al-Asbali, one of the three bloggers who have been abducted last March, stated that a new life awaits him now that he was released and back in his hometown Al-Marj.

Al-Asbali’s family announced last month that he was released after being held in captive for four months. On the 28 March, three armed men in military uniform driving a Chevrolet forcefully dragged him from outside his house in Al-Marj.

The Anti-terrorism and Special Forces Department in Benghazi admitted earlier that Al-Asbali was held captive at Grenada Military prison, which is supervised by the Army led by General Khalifa Haftar. That is according to Lt. Ahmad Gharour who is currently detained by the Department for abducting several other bloggers and activists from different cities.

In an interview with Al-Wasat website, which LIBYAPROSPECT is translating its highlights, Al-Asbali stated that armed men took him from the front of his house, while his mates Ahmad Al-Hawaz and Almayar Al-Araifi were taken from youth housings in Shehat.

The abductors’ demands were never made clear, nor what was the reason for the abduction. However, he linked what happened to some of the writings he posted on Facebook and Twitter, especially those related to enforced disappearances that are happening in the eastern area.

According to Al-Asbali, at 6:00 pm that day he received a phone call from a friend who told him he was waiting for him with another friend. As he was leaving the house, three unknown attacked him bluntly, closed his mouth, tied his hands from the back, and threw him into the car after beating him up with the back of the rifles they were carrying. One was in a camouflage Jacket, another in an Arabian robe and had a long beard, but he wasn’t able to tell the features of the 3rd.

Al-Asbali also added he was personally searched; however, all they found was a phone and an ID card. When asked where his weapon was he answered that the only weapon he needed was his mind and pen. The first time they addressed him was to ask him to be quiet.

At first, Al-Asbali didn’t know the area he was held in, yet he was quickly transported to Al-Baida, without any of the roadblocks slowing them down.

“I asked them about our destination, but they refused to answer any of my questions. I then told them they weren’t with the Islamic State (IS) since one of them had a beard. However one of them clearly stated his name for “reasons I don’t know.” Our first stop was at Al-Baida. It was a resort belonging to one of the abductors, whom I knew well. I moved heavily inside. They questioned me, then searched my phone and found pictures of me on the battlefield as I was covering what was going on there. They also got a hold of pictures of publicly known figures. The abductors then confessed that there was nothing suspicious,” he said.

When asked about what was going on in Grenada Prison, the identities of those guarding it, and what the place looked like; Al-Asbali said: “All I could hear day and night were the voices of screaming and yelling and torturing, along with the sound of the radio station (Meshkat Al-Nobowa) that was on 24/7.”

“Our heads were shaved three times; we didn’t change our clothes for 70 days. They had no case against us, but we weren’t allowed to contact our families in any way. We weren’t allowed to hire lawyers, because there were no arrest warrants, to begin with,” Al-Asbali stated.

“They told us we’ll be buried there, we will rot there, we were never going to leave nor see the sunlight, we’ll be shot dead and thrown away, our families will never hear from us again, alongside all other insults that were part of the psychological torture we were under. Physically, though, for reasons unknown to me, we were rarely hurt, unlike all the other prisoners, for they were always hit with pipes and metal wires. I was once put in front of an AC for some minutes until I was cold and the detective threatened to bash my head,” he said.

He carried on saying that “when you look at the building from the outside you won’t imagine that all these horrible acts were happening inside. When you walk through the big gates, you will be faced with the parking lot, and as you reach the inner doors, you will find a corridor with two offices, a kitchen, and a storage room. It looked so normal, but in the kitchen, there was a small aluminium door that leads into the prison. The first thing you see is a bloodied wall and a torture device; a steel pipe that is used to hang the prisoners on while extracting a confession,” he clarified.

Al-Asbali said: “The prison consists of 3 small rooms and five solitary cells that are just a little wider than a grave. It was observed that all the prisoners were abducted and neither convicted nor on trial. I struggled ten days in solitary without knowing my destiny; therefore I decided to go on a hunger strike. I demanded to know what was going to happen to us. 4 days later I lost consciousness, at that same day I was tied up and moved to another holding cell where a detective spoke to me for the first time,” he said.

He later adds that he stayed there for a week before being questioned again by several people, some he recognized. The questions focused on officers, public figures, families, ministers, and political activists that I had relationships with. They also asked about his opinions on abductions, disappearances, and murder without trial.