Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tripoli Prison Art - Huda the executioner arrested
One of Colonel Gaddafi's most reviled lieutenants, Huda ben Amer, isreported to have been arrested in Libya by troops loyal to the new regime.
Nicknamed Huda the executioner, she had twice been mayor of Benghazi and had risen by the start of the uprising to become a senior official in the General People's Congress.
Her notoriety and political ascendancy stem from a public execution in 1984, carried out in front of schoolchildren in her native city's basketball stadium.
A bound Gaddafi opponent was left dangling in front of the crowd until Ben Amer rushed forward and wrapped her arms around his body, pulling him down until he ceased struggling. Her action brought her to the colonel's notice but also earned her the enduring hatred of many in Benghazi.
Soon after Gaddafi's forces were driven out of the eastern city, her sprawling white mansion was attacked and burnt down. She was last seen standing beside Gaddafi during one of his television broadcasts in March.
One of the Benghazi rebels, Walid Malak, an engineer who was carrying a Kalashnikov, told The Guardian at the time: "If we lose, Huda ben Amer will hang all of us. Everyone in Benghazi knows it's them or us."
The victim of the 1984 public execution was 30-year-old Al-Sadek Hamed al-Shuwehdy, an aeronautical engineer. His cousin Ibrahim al-Shuwehdy, 47, told The Daily Telegraph earlier this year: "Everyone knew why she did it. She was ambitious, and Colonel Gaddafi has always promoted ruthless people.
"Sure enough, afterwards she was rapidly promoted. That terrible thing she did was the making of Huda ben Amer's career."
The death penalty still exists under Libya's constitution although all of Gaddafi's laws will doubtless be reviewed by the National Transitional Council.
Last year, newspapers in Tripoli reported that there were more than 200 people on death row.
Amnesty International condemned the execution of 18 people in June 2010 by firing squad. Many were said to be foreign nationals, from Egypt, Chad and Nigeria, accused of murder.
Asked about the use of the death penalty for Colonel Gaddafi, the international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, told the Evening Standard this week: "People will have different views on the issue of the death penalty but it's a matter for the Libyan people and their new government, the National Transitional Council.
"Britain's position is that we have signed up to conventions which are opposed to the using of the death penalty, so that is the position of the government."
Ben Amer's fate could become a test of how the new regime deals with demands for retribution.