Belhaj accused of links with Hamas – Al Marsad

Libya – The decision by the Attorney General’s Office to order the arrest of controversial Libyan political figure Abdulhakim Belhaj is because of his links to a clandestine Libyan branch of the Palestinian Hamas movement, it has emerged.

Evidence has been presented to the head of investigations at the Attorney General’s office, Sadiq Assour, of Belhaj’s presence in meetings with the head of Hamas in Libya in which secret shipments of weapons to Gaza and to militants in Egypt’s Sinai province were organised.  The evidence, seen by Al Marsad, also shows that the head of the Libya’s Justice and Reconstruction Party, Mohamed Sawan, as well as leading figures from Tunisia’s Ennahda party were also party to the Hamas discussions.

It was initially reported that that the arrest warrant for Belhaj and five other Libyans, among them oil blockader Ibrahim Jadhran, was connected to attacks in Libya carried out by Sudanese and Chadian fighters operating in the country.  Thirty-one of them were also named in the arrest warrant. Responding to it, Belhaj denied any involvement with Sudanese and Chadian fighters.

It has now emerged that the case against Belhaj, no 65/17, relates mainly to his involvement with Hamas.

Hamas in Libya was set up in 2011 by a Palestinian, Marwan Alashqar, with the aim of using Libyan resources, human as well as material, to help the Palestinian movement. It initially concentrated its operations in Benghazi but was forced to leave in 2014 after the LNA launched its campaign to rid the city of militants, moving first to Misrata and then to Tripoli.

Alashqar’s passport

Alashqar was arrested early last year in Tripoli along with three other members of the cell and they are being held at the Mitiga airbase prison by the Rada support force. The evidence against Belhaj comes from files on Alashqar’s computer.

These include minutes of meetings with Belhaj, Sawan and Ennahda figures, correspondence and other documents, voice recordings and video clips as well as details of arms’ purchases including methods of funding, plus details on shipments. Other evidence includes lists of names, communication codes and training videos.

Together it provides powerful evidence of Hamas’ hidden infiltration of post-2011 Libyan revolutionary structures and its links with key Libyan organisations and individuals, notably the leaders of LIFG, the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Justice and Reconstruction Party as well as with Ennahda in Tunisia. There are details of meetings at the Justice and Reconstruction Party’s offices in Tripoli.

The computer files also provide evidence of direct coordination between the Hamas cell and the leaders of Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. There are details of support for the terrorist groups that operated in Benghazi and Derna, including the provision of instructors from Gaza on combat training and bomb-making skills, and coordination with the now dead Wissam Ben Hamid and Mansour Al-Faydi as well as with Ziyad Belam and other leaders of the so-called revolutionary shoura councils.

There have been a number of attempts, both domestic and foreign, to free Alashqar and the members of the Hamas cell since they were captured.

Last April, just after he was appointed as head of the State Council, leading Muslim Brotherhood member Khaled al-Mashri was called by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ostensibly to congratulate him. However, sources in the Attorney General’s Office say that Abbas pressed Mashri to secure the release of the Hamas cell.  The move is said to have been part of still-ongoing reconciliation efforts between Abbas and Hamas.

According to Al Marsad sources, the special envoy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Libya, Emrullah Isler, was also asked by Turkish intelligence to try to secure the cell’s freedom. Isler chairs the Turkish parliament’s security and intelligence committee.

In June 2017, Sadiq al-Ghariani denounced the arrest of the cell immediately after their arrests were announced by the Attorney General’s office, declaring that they should be supported, not imprisoned.

The Libyan Penal Code, in articles 166 and 171, stipulates that any citizen who finances or communicates with foreign organizations can be punished with life imprisonment or execution.

The computer files are expected to lead to further arrest warrants naming political, military and business leaders.

Al Marsad will continue to publish details of the most important parts, starting this week. In the meantime, our team continues to liaise with officials in the Attorney General’s office. According to the head of investigations there, this is one of the most serious cases since 2011 but, because of the complexity, has taken a long time to unravel.