Mohamed Sowan, a former political prisoner, was chosen to lead the Muslim Brotherhood Party [AFP]

The Muslim Brotherhood in Libya has announced that it formed a political party after six decades in the shadows of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

The Islamist group declared the creation of the Justice and Development Party on Saturday in the absence of laws laying out a formal process for the establishment of political parties.

Mohamed Gaair, the Brotherhood's spokesman, said the group has representation in more than 18 cities across the country, and that more than 1,400 members attended a meeting in Tripoli a day earlier to declare the formation of the political party.

They chose as party leader Mohamed Sowan, a native of the city of Misrata, which saw some of the worst fighting in the civil war that brought down Gaddafi and has since become distrustful of authority based elsewhere in the country.

Sowan worked as a hotel manager and was a political prisoner under the Gaddafi regime for eight years until 2006.

Islam source of legislation

Gaair said that the Brotherhood has had a presence in Libya since 1949, but that many of its leaders were jailed under Gaddafi or exiled.

Several prominent former rebel leaders fighting to oust Gaddafi were associated with the movement, but the group does not have any officials in the transitional government.

Now, the Brotherhood is considered the most organised movement in Libya to have nationwide support. Supporters include wealthy businessmen who returned to the country after last year's civil war ended, opening up civil society groups and charitable funds throughout the war-ravaged country.

Gaair said the group aims to establish a just and developed society based on religious values.

“Our first main goal is to work on security and stability,'' he said.

“We are still a new founded party, but we will work on the basis of Islamic principles and that doesn't mean the shallow meaning of religion most people think of like banning women from leaving home. This is not rational.''

In October, Libya's rulers said that Islamic law would be the main source of legislation.

The influence of the Brotherhood and related Islamist groups has surged following last year's Arab Spring uprisings. In Egypt, where the movement was founded in 1928, its affiliated political party has taken around half the seats in parliament.

Elections have swayed heavily in favour of Islamic movements in Tunisia and Morocco as well.

Source: Agencies