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Libyan Leader's Son Negotiating Release of Jailed Islamist Rebels


A foundation led by the influential elder son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi says authorities are planning to release some of the jailed members of an al-Qaida affiliated Islamist group accused of trying to overthrow the government. VOA Reporter Aya Batrawy has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

The Gadhafi International Foundation, led by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's son , says nearly one third of the jailed members of the Fighting Islamic Group in Libya are to be freed.

The foundation did not say how many members of the Islamic group would be released or when the release would take place, but in a statement on its website, the foundation says the release follows negotiations supervised by the younger Gadhafi.

The Fighting Islamic Group in Libya first declared its goal of overthrowing Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi in the mid 1990s. Members of the group outside Libya announced their affiliation with al-Qaida three months ago. Several members of the group are serving lengthy prison terms.

Government officials have not confirmed the details of the prisoner release but the foundation, led by Gadhafi's eldest son Saif, says it is continuing a dialogue with the Islamic group and the authorities are preparing to set them free.

The Libyan leader's eldest son holds no government position but is reported to be one of his father's most trusted envoys.

According to Aly Abuzaakouk, of the Libyan Forum for Human and Political Development, the reported prisoner release is part of a pattern of reconciliation for political dissidents who agree to not take up arms against the government.

"Now there is in Libyan websites frank discussion about the constitution, about political parties, about political organizations, freedom of the press," said Aly Abuzaakouk. "There is now inside Libya, for those who observe, a new, I think, kind of wind coming, a new breeze coming for the Spring of 2008 in Libya."

Also on Monday, the Gadhafi International Foundation announced that 66-year-old political dissident Fathi al-Jahmi is receiving medical care following a report last month by a rights groups saying he was in need of urgent medical attention. The rights group said he had lost weight, his legs were swollen and that he was too weak to speak.

Al-Jahmi, who was a provincial governor in Libya, has spent nearly four years in detention without trial for calling for the release of political prisoners and criticizing Libyan leader Gadhafi.

Last year Libya improved its shaky relations with the West after it released six foreign medical workers convicted by a Libyan court of infecting Libyan children with HIV. The six had maintained their innocence and said they were tortured into confessions. Libya was on the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism for 27 years. Relations were restored two years ago.

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