Libya holds first civilian trial of alleged Gaddafi supporters

ZAWIYAH, Libya Tue May 8, 2012 2:47pm EDT

1 of 2. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of the American military bases in the country, in Tripoli in this June 12, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Ismail Zetouny/Files

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ZAWIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Libya began its first civilian trial of alleged supporters of Muammar Gaddafi's regime on Tuesday, officials said, as five men accused of planning to create instability by "terrorist acts" appeared in the dock.

Judge Amer al-Turki did not read out a charge sheet but adjourned the trial, which is being held in the western town of Zawiyah, for a week at the request of defense lawyers.

Ali Ashaab Mohammed, the head of the court, said the men had been arrested in Zawiyah, just west of the capital Tripoli.

"Today's case ... is about a group of former regime loyalists ... They were planning to conduct terrorist acts and create instability in the country, as well as carrying weapons," he said outside the courtroom.

"Some of them confessed that they took part in fighting battles in some areas."

The men were behind bars in the courtroom. Officials said these were the first such civil court proceedings since the end of last year's war. "This is the first trial (of suspected Gaddafi supporters)," Mohammed said.

An interim government was appointed in November to lead Libya to elections in June but is struggling to impose order on a country awash with weapons left over from the fighting.

It has been keen to try Gaddafi's family members and supporters at home, including Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam who was captured in November and is currently being held in the western mountain town of Zintan.

Human rights groups question whether its justice system can meet the standards of international law.

In February, a group of Libyans accused of fighting for Gaddafi went on trial before a military court in the eastern city of Benghazi. The court later ruled they should be tried instead in a civilian court.

(Reporting by Taha Zargoun; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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