Libya court sentences 23 to death for ISIL campaign

Appeals court sentences 14 others to life in prison for campaign including the beheading of Egyptian Christians in 2015.

Suspects sit behind bars during a judgment sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining Islamic State group (ISIS) in the court in Misrata, Libya, May 29, 2023. REUTERS/Ayman al-Sahili
Suspects sit behind bars during a judgement sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining ISIL [ISIS], in a court in Misrata, Libya [Ayman al-Sahili/Reuters]

A Libyan court has sentenced 23 people to death and another 14 to life in prison for their role in a deadly ISIL (ISIS) campaign that included beheading a group of Egyptian Christians and seizing the city of Sirte in 2015.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement on Monday that one other person was sentenced to 12 years in prison and six were sentenced to 10 years; one was sentenced to five years and six others to three years. Five were acquitted and three others died before their case came to trial, according to the statement.

Libya was said to be one of ISIL’s strongholds outside of Iraq and Syria, and the group took advantage of the chaos and warfare in the North African country that followed a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

In 2015, the armed group launched an attack on the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people before abducting and beheading dozens of Egyptian Christians, whose deaths were featured in grisly propaganda films.

After gaining territory in Benghazi, Derna and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, the group seized the central coastal city of Sirte, holding it until late 2016 as it enforced a harsh regime of public morality backed up by brutal punishments.

The court sentenced three minors to 10 years in prison each, said lawyer Lotfi Mohaychem.

“As lawyers for the victims’ families, we see the verdict of the court as very satisfying and very just,” Mohaychem said.

“The court sentenced those whose guilt was demonstrated and acquitted those against whom there was insufficient evidence.”

‘We saw justice being served’

Fatima Beitelmal, the mother of a victim, told Al Jazeera that she could not explain her happiness after the verdict.

“My dear son Mohamed, I got justice for you. I have not been able to sleep since my two sons were killed. We saw justice being served,” she said.

Mustafa Trabelsi, another victim’s father, said he felt relieved by the judgement that came after many court sessions.

“My son was kidnapped in Sirte by ISIL and is still missing. I don’t know what happened to him,” Trabelsi told Al Jazeera.

ISIL and other groups exploited the chaos that engulfed Libya after the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The group was eventually expelled from Sirte in December 2016 by forces fighting for the former United Nations-backed Government of National Accord. Forces of east-based commander Khalifa Haftar reclaimed Derna two years later.

Hundreds of alleged former ISIL fighters remain jailed in Libyan prisons, many of whom are still awaiting trial.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies