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Libyan Amazigh activist accused of espionage for speaking Berber language

Amazigh human rights activist, Rabea Jayash [Marsad Libya/Facebook]

An Amazigh human rights activist is still being held following his abduction last week in the Libyan city of Benghazi by an armed group affiliated with Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

Rabea Jayash, a cultural and human rights activist from the western town of Yefren, was attending a celebration at a theatre in the city when he was abducted by gunmen after he was heard speaking the Amazigh language in a phone call. "The gunmen arrested him immediately, searched his bag and found a book written in Tamazight," explained local sources. "They accused him of espionage."

Jayash was abducted along with a colleague, Jamal Fellah. Although Fellah was later released, Jayash remains in detention.

The National Commission for Human Rights in Libya (NCHRL) condemned Jayash's "arbitrary detention" and revealed that his abductors were likely to be the armed group led by Ali Al-Amrouni called "The Districts' Operations Room of Libyan Army in Benghazi". The Commission called on the LNA's senior leaders to launch an investigation into his abduction and to help in Jayash's release.

Read: The politics of being Berber

This is not the first time that the LNA has been accused of human right abuses; Saiqa Forces Commander Mahmoud Werfalli is wanted by the International Criminal Court for partaking in the mass execution of prisoners. The LNA promised to conduct its own investigation but it has not resulted in any charges against Werfalli.

During the LNA's operations to secure Benghazi from Islamist militants last year, many were complicit in summary executions and digging up the bodies of dead militants and parading them around the city.

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