Pro-Gaddafi 'mass murderer' awaits fate
Misrata - Ibrahim Sadeq Khalifa looks like any other young Libyan, but the 20-year-old prisoner has good reason to fear for his future in the new Libya.
By his own admission, Khalifa participated in the mass killing of civilians as Tripoli was falling.
The fair, healthy-looking man with a thin moustache and beard, was a soldier in Muammar Gaddafi’s military and is now an inmate with more than 100 others in a prison run by the new national army in Libya's third largest city of Misrata.
His crime, which he acknowledged in front of an AFP team touring the prison, was that he burnt alive around 150 men in a garage in Tripoli as fighting raged between Gaddafi loyalists and former rebels in August last year.
"I threw grenades on them after my colleagues doused them in petrol. We then locked the garage and left. We burnt them alive," Khalifa told AFP, of the massacre that he and four other Gaddafi soldiers carried out.
Khalifa admits that those killed by him and his comrades in the Khalit al-Farjan area of Tripoli on the afternoon of August 22 were civilians.
He was captured by former rebels from his home in Tajura, a suburb of Tripoli, three days later, when the city was overrun by anti-Gaddafi fighters.
"I did what I was ordered to do"
Shortly afterwards, rebel leaders spoke of the murder of more than 150 people in the capital.
"They were about 150 men from all age groups. They were huddled together in the garage," Khalifa said, adding that he was following the orders of his superior officer.
"Yes I did it. I did what I was ordered to do by my officer in charge. When I went home that night, I could not sleep. I regret what I did," said Khalifa, dressed in a blue T-shirt and tracksuit.
He was transferred on September 05 to the Misrata prison after spending about two weeks with the ex-rebels, who he said beat him repeatedly.
Although there were no glaring signs of torture, a scar was visible near his collar bone.
"It is from a cigarette burn. The thuwar (anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries) did that," he said when probed by AFP, speaking hesitatingly as jailor Ibrahim Beatelmal approached.
Prisons in Misrata, some run by the new army and others by former rebels, have gained notoriety after human rights groups accused them of conducting widespread torture of pro-Kadhafi men.
Beatelmal strongly denied the allegations, saying his prison was trying to offer the inmates the "best" it can.
"If we wanted to torture these prisoners, Khalifa is the best candidate for that. He has burnt alive 150 men," Beatelmal said, as he smoked a cigarette.
"When he came to our prison he weighed 65kg. Now he is more than 80kg. That would not happen if you are tortured. I am angry at these human rights people. I don't even want to see their faces."
Amnesty International reported last week that its delegates noticed signs of torture among prisoners in Tripoli, Misrata and smaller towns like Ghariyan.
"The torture is being carried out by officially recognised military and security entities, as well as by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework," the rights group charged.
Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in Misrata complaining that its medics were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by torture during questioning.
"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable," its general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement.
The prison where Khalifa is being held was an administrative building under the Gaddafi regime.
It has tiny rooms, a compound in the centre and three washrooms shared by the prison guards and prisoners. Most inmates are soldiers and officers from Gaddafi’s military.
Each cell is occupied by eight prisoners, said Nasser Ali Shabadoun, a prison administrator.
Mattresses, blankets, toothpaste and copies of the Koran lie scattered around, while the rusty window grills are used as clothes lines.
Outside, a pick-up truck drove into the compound bringing food for the inmates, two of whom unloaded meat, rice, bread and milk.
"The living conditions here are not bad, given the crimes these men have committed. The food too comes from a good caterer," said Shabadoun.
The prison also has a few "high-profile" inmates, like Mansour Daw, Gaddafi’s internal security chief.
Daw was with the former Libyan strongman when he was captured in Sirte on October 20. He is currently held in the Misrata prison with two other senior military officers in one room.
"I have no idea of what is happening outside. I have no access to any lawyer. But we are treated well," an unshaven Daw told AFP, holding his prayer beads in one hand.
Like him, Khalifa and other inmates face a similarly uncertain fate.
"I have not met a lawyer or my family members. I don't know what will happen to me," said a visibly scared Khalifa.
"Only God knows what my future is," he added, as a prison guard led him back to his cell and shut him in behind a brown, metal door.