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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fathi Terbil

November 24, 2011
last edits November 25

As Libya's new government was named by the NTC on November 22, I take special brief interest in a minor post given to a major but mysterious figure in the uprising that started it all. Lawyer and "activist" Fathi Tarbel was named minister of youth and sport. As  Hurriyet Daily News explained, he's the man "whose brief arrest on Feb. 15 was the spark that lit the popular uprising against Gadhafi’s regime in the eastern city of Benghazi."

He was before now an NTC member in charge of the youth, and now he's being put in charge of sports too. He apparently knows how to get a game started. I really know little of the man, aside from two vague versions I've heard.

Terbil the Persecuted Human Rights Hero
The mainstream and rebel narrative is that he's a crusading "Human Rights" lawyer for families of the Abu Salim prison massacre of 1996 which ... actually may not have even happened, despite the over-eagerness to claim they had found physical proof of it. But some family members said they had missing people lost in the prison system, who they think died there. It wound up totaling about 1,270 implied victims, and they had a lawsuit and this lawyer.

Andy Worthington writes on "How the Abu Salim Prison Massacre in 1996 Inspired the Revolution in Libya," describing Terbil as a dedicated campaigner for justice who endured repeated arrests and even torture. He was offered an obscure human rights prize, but took a while to collect it (if he ever did), and Terbil was listed by Time magazine as among "Time’s 100 Most Influential People" for 2011. Their write-up suggested he was arrested not for any uprising-related activity, but for his counsel work, ongoing already for years:
lawyer Fathi Terbil, 39, showed extraordinary courage just by agreeing to represent the families of those killed. Sure enough, he was arrested in February. Then a group of lawyers and judges gathered in front of Benghazi’s main courthouse to protest. The victims’ families joined them, and the demonstration grew into a full-blown rebellion that has liberated eastern Libya from Gaddafi’s grasp and may yet topple him from Tripoli.
The UK Guardian reported that Terbil "was arrested over a lawsuit against the government on behalf of the relatives of 1,200 men killed by Gaddafi's forces at Abu Salim prison in 1996." 

On or before February 15, however, he might also called for a general uprising, or urged support for one. One had been set for two days hence, imagined for years, planned for months, and openly called for already for weeks. The planning to turn the uprising military and make it international were also apparently well-laid, and Libya faced an immense threat that the government might have been faintly aware of.

And Fathi Terbil was arrested on the afternoon of February 15. Understandably, Libyans who had been just fine were suddenly enraged against the machine at this draconian arrest, and took to the streets to demand his release. Apparently the authorities refused the demands, and started killing people left and right, and so the people had to take over and thus began the spontaneous peoples' revolt.

Some acknowledge this silenced political prisoner was eventually released, and even as Hurriyet acknowledged, held only "briefly." "The overnight unrest followed the arrest of an outspoken government critic, who was reportedly freed later," said the BBC on the morning of February 16. He was in less than 24 hours.

Goheda's Version
R.Breki Goheda's 2011 documentary Libyan Crisis: Events, Causes, and Facts, gives more details. I haven't as yet found any other supports for it, but the video has a good track record of claims that do pan out. The segment of Terbil is early on, part one, 3:42, explains in more detail than usual how he got arrested and released and how that effected the protests/insurgency:
Security apparatus in Benghazi arrested Fathi Terbil, the coordinator of the association of the victim of Abu Salim [prison massacre of] 1996, after he incited people in Tripoli to head for Abu Salim prison, under the pretext that the prison was burning, and instigated them to storm the prison, so as to free prisoners.
Some members of the association being led by Terbil mediated for his release, and he was released on the same day with the guarantee of the mediators after he confessed of making up the call contrary to realty. However, members of the association gathered in front of the police station , and staged demonstrations immediately following the release of Terbil, and marched for 10 kilometers ...  
And so on until we get to where we are now. By this, he recanted his charge the prison was burning, and it can't be ignored that maybe he was coerced by the authorities to take it back. So was the prison really burning? There's been no supporting evidence for that, from photos, videos, or any other reports. It feels like a thin excuse related to his personal area of expertise - questionable stories about what happened at Abu Salim prison.

Did he even really make the claim? No one else specifies a stated reason for the arrest on the 15th. They presume it was really about that old lawsuit, but can't say what the authorities said. Goheda does. I'm not convinced this narrative is true, but I do lean that way. The alternative has been left just way too vague.

Let's consider again Andy Worthington's article and some imagery he used to tie the Libyan crisis in with the "Arab Spring" uprisings of Egypt and Tunisia. He wrote of "the revolutionary movements that were spreading like wildfire across the Middle East," and noted the origins in the first uprising in Tunisia in the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. A man's rather extreme reaction to a mild act of bureaucratic insensitivity was taken as a sign that the whole government had to be torn down. Maybe it was so, but one must note that the power of fire seems to sometimes unlock energy it doesn't even have a right to.

Where there's fire spreading, in this case it's revolution. So when you see revolution... where's the fire in Libya's supposed spark, in Terbil's accepted arrest saga? Nowhere until the escalating riots afterwards, in the mainstream/rebel version. But Goheda's version has it - in the form of unsupported allegation / apparent outright lie.

Another source I'll be citing:


  1. Al Arabiya interiew with Terbil on MEMRI TV, uploaded on 15 March by MEMRITVVideos, Hijacking the Revolution

    (Is there evidence he was actually arrested?)

    This is How You Start a War: Libya's Frantic Fight for the Future GQ Magazine June 2011, re 13 Feb tweets.

    Read More http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201106/libya-revolution-qaddafi-story-june-2011#ixzz1eeI1mY3J

    Incidentally, YouTube user and blogger alaa7773
    علاء الدرسي - Alaa Al-Drissi - uploaded quite a lot of videos of Fathi speaking in Benghazi in the first half of 2010 about Abu Salim families...eg
    اعتصام الأهالي 16/1/2010-حوار مع فتحي تربل الجزء2 introducing a man with a white beard, talking about his son, سمير الكاديكي , Salim Al-Kadiki.

    See also footage of a sit in outside the court in Benghazi on 10 April 2010, uploaded the next day.

    Others talk openly about suffering at the hands of the state here on 23 March 2010. Also upload from 1 May 2010. All demos seem peaceful.

    Strangely, alaa7773 uploads nothing from Benghazi during the critical period in February, though he seems to have been in Egypt immediatly previously. The last protest demonstration upload is 29 June 2010,الذكرى 14 لمذبحة بوسليم - أعضاء رابطة ( كي لا ننسى ) ,in memory of Abu Salim massacre, victims association.

    (Nafusa Berbers condemning racist comments by Fathi Terbil who is a member of Libya's NTC

  2. There is a translation into English of the Memri TV interview on this page

  3. More about Mr Ahmed Sanalla (GQ article above) - who comes from Doncaster in England, and in which town there is an accident and emergency CONSULTANT DOCTOR with the name Abdulkasim Sanalla (father?). This medical connection was omitted from Sarah A Topol article for GQ magazine,This is How You Start a War: Libya's Frantic Fight for the Future(June 2011).
    However the medical connection is made clear in this article about Libya's Revoltionary Headquarters, 27 February 2011, which describes Mr Sanalla as "" describing an internet centre in Benghazi which commenced operation on 22 February :

    "The top-floor internet centre began operating on Tuesday, explains Sanalla, a dual British and Libyan citizen who has spent the past four years studying medicine at Benghazi’s Garyounis University."

    He says of the information reaching the west...
    "“Some of it was well exaggerated,” he said. But in his mind, if it helped the uprising’s cause. It was an acceptable distortion."


    Mr Sanalla may be seen being interviewed on this Al Jazeera video, The Stream: Libya's new citizen journalists & Libya: Whose revolution is it? uploaded on 26 June, from 19.50 onwards.

  4. Ahmed Sanalla (EndTyranny101), the man who seemed to start the revolution from Benghazi through his admittedly "well exaggerated" reports (i.e. lies in my book) is an interesting character - he seems to have been declared bankrupt in October 2007 at Doncaster County Court (rather than drop out of school, as GQ reported) at this address

    (From this to this on the 15th...Hot water cannons and tear gas being fired at protesters by the security forces, to disperse the crowds in Benghazi, Libya.

    Recent tweet(31 October): @EndTyranny101 Ahmed Sanalla
    This definitely was not part of the plan...#Libya: revolutionaries turn on each other as fears grow for law and order

  5. Anmesty International has a section on Fathi Terbil in its 2010 Report,Document - Libya: Recent incident highlights need for investigations into the Abu Salim Prison killings ,30 April 2010.
    "During one such demonstration on 17 April 2010 in Benghazi, protestors were involved in an altercation with Mouftah Badri, the former coordinator of So That We Don’t Forget, an organization which campaigns for the rights of victims killed or injured in clashes with armed Islamist groups in the 1990s.....
    According to eyewitness, Mouftah Badri insulted the protestors and attacked them with a machete. Pictures of him swinging a machete at protestors have appeared on the Al-Manara Libyan news website, which is based abroad. It was reported that members of Libyan security forces were present during the attack, but failed to intervene.As a result of the attack, Fathi Tourbil, Head of the Organizing Committee of Families of Victims of Abu Salim in Benghazi, needed three stitches in the back of his head. Upon leaving the hospital, Fathi Tourbil, accompanied by members of other families, went to the Madina Police Station to file a complaint against Mouftah Badri. However, upon arrival, they discovered that Mouftah Badri had already filed a complaint against three of the protestors: Fathi Tourbil, Faraj Al-Sharani and Walid Al-‘Abar. The men are accused of participating in a brawl and causing injury.

    The Madina Partial Prosecution, under the Public Prosecution in North Benghazi, opened an investigation into the complaints. It has so far interrogated several family members, including Fathi Tourbil, Faraj Al-Sharani and Walid Al-‘Abar, who are at liberty pending the outcome of the investigation, but who have been placed under judicial control. Consequently, they have to present themselves to the Public Prosecution in North Benghazi twice a week.
    The men’s defence claim that Mouftah Badri has not presented himself to the Madina Partial Prosecution, despite a convocation order requiring him to do so. Mouftah Badri was quoted in Cerene newspaper denying the accusations against him and stating that the protestors attacked and verbally insulted him. He was also quoted saying that his father, a law-enforcement official, had been killed by people who were among those who later died in Abu Salim Prison in 1996.

    Amnesty International calls on the Libyan authorities to ensure that a full, independent, and impartial investigation is conducted into the incident of 17 April 2010, including into allegations of the failure of the security forces to intervene; and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice in proceedings meeting international fair trial standards.
    In June 2008, the North Benghazi Court of First Instance, civil division, ordered the authorities to reveal and officially notify the families of the whereabouts and fate of 33 individuals believed to have died in the Abu Salim Prison killings in 1996 or elsewhere in custody.

    So, there was so bother and the security services did not intervene.


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