North Africa Theater

Moroccan women protest reactionary PM

Moroccan women protested outside parliament June 24, waving banners and frying pans, and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The protest came days after Benkirane gave a speech urging women to stay at home and not work jobs. "Don't you realize that when women went to work outside, the light went out of their homes?" he said. "We will continue to defend our position against this modernity that is trying to eliminate family in our lives by reversing the roles of men and women. To that we say 'no!'" Since 2011, the Morocco has had a gender equality guarantee under the constitution, but it has never been fully implemented. Women in the country have periodically protested over the last few years to pressure the conversative government on the question. (Feministing, June 25)

Benghazi suspect pleads not guilty

Ahmed Abu Khatallah (BBC profilemade his first appearance on June 28 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia  where he pleaded not guilty to a federal terrorism offense arising from his alleged participation in the September 2012 attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya. Khatallah was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of "conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, knowing and intending that these would be used in preparation for and in carrying out a killing in the course of an attack on a federal facility, and the offense resulted in death." The attacks occurred on September 11 through September 12, 2012, and resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The investigation into Khatallah's involvement is ongoing and the Department of Justice may bring additional charges as the case continues. "Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah as arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system," said US Attorney General Eric Holder. "We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant's alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi." 

Women's rights advocate assassinated in Benghazi

Libyan women's rights activist and attorney Salwa Bughaigis was assassinated June 25 by five gunmen who broke into her home in Benghazi's Hawari district and shot her in the head. Her husband, Essam al-Ghariani, recently elected to Benghazi's Municipal Council, is missing, and presumed kidnapped. A gardener was also shot and wounded in the attack. Bughaigis had just returned home after voting in Libya's second general election since the 2011 revolution, and posted pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote. She was also on local TV earlier in the day, speaking about ongoing clashes in the city, which she said she could see from her house. She urged people to go out and vote in spite of the violence.

US captures alleged Benghazi attack ringleader

US military forces conducted a secret operation in Libya June 15, capturing Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind behind the September 2012 attacks on US facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans including US Ambassador Chris Stevens. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby released a statement June 17 saying, "There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all US personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya." According to the US State Department, Abu Khatallah is a senior leader in Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia [BBC backgrounder]. According to the BBC, he has been charged in a federal court in Washington, DC, with killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material support to terrorists and weapons charges.

ICC rules it may prosecute Qaddafi son

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled (PDF) May 21 that the case against Muammar Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi may proceed in the ICC and that Libyan authorities must immediately surrender Saif al-Islam to The Hague. Saif al-Islam is being tried on multiple crimes against humanity associated with the 2011 revolt in his home country. A majority of the ICC Appeals Chamber, with one dissenting opinion, rejected all four grounds of appeal brought by the Libyan government, concluding that it had not been effectively demonstrated that the domestic investigation in Libya would cover the same case that would be presented before the ICC. Judge Erkki Kourula stated that "the Appeals Chamber did not err in either fact or law when it concluded that Libya had fallen short of substantiating, by means of evidence of a sufficient degree of specificity and probative value, that Libya's investigation covers the same case that is before the Court." The Libyan government also presented arguments that the Pre-Trial Chamber had committed procedural errors when reaching its decision, to which the Appeals Chamber confirmed the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision. The judgment affirmed the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I decision (PDF) in May 2013 to allow Saif al-Islam to be tried in the ICC, which Libya subsequently appealed in June.

Battles in Benghazi as general goes unilateral

At least 14 people and possibly up to 10 more are reported to have been killed in fighting in Benghazi May 16 as forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hafter attacked an alliance of Islamist militias made up of the February 17 Brigade, Libya Shield No. 1 Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia. Gen. Hafter's attack on the militias was apparently not approved by the central government in Tripoli, which has disavowed it. Acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni condemned the operation as "a coup against the revolution." The fighting is the heaviest in Libya since the 2011 revolution. Eye-witnesses describe a city in chaos, with warplanes streaking low over rooftops, tanks on the streets, aerial bombardments and door-to-door combat. The February 17 Brigade claims to have shot down a helicopter used in the attacks. Fighting continues, with with all shops shut and the city virtually closed down—including the internet for much of the day, supposedly due to a short circuit. (Shabab Libya, Libya Herald, BBC News, May 16)

Qaddafi appears for trial via video conference

The Libyan News Agency reported on April 27 that the son of Moammar Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, and other ex-officials have appeared for their trial via video conferencing. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi appeared at his trial through video-conferencing because he has been held in Zintan by a militia since 2011. Human Rights Watch reported in February that Libya has failed to grant due process rights to Qaddafi and other detained officials. There are 37 defendants in the trial, facing a variety of charges including the killing of protesters during the 2011 civil war. The trial commenced earlier in April.

Algeria: Berbers join call for election boycott

Algerian security forces on April 16 violently dispersed an attempt by opposition activists to stage a protest in the capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's run for a fourth term in this week's elections. Only a few members of the opposition alliance Barakat—President Abdelaziz Bouteflika—were able to assemble in central Algiers before police routed them. Barakat was able to hold a rally in a stadium, where some 5,000 gathered to chant "Boycott" and "The people want the regime out!" Mohsen Belabes, a leader of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), told the crowd: "The people here are the people who have been excluded, who have been put aside, but this is the real Algeria. The regime will collapse, but Algeria will survive."