Libyan parliament defies supreme court ruling

Libyan lawyers celebrate after the court invalidated the country's parliament, outside the Supreme Court in Tripoli, Nov. 6, 2014.

Libyan lawyers celebrate after the court invalidated the country’s parliament, outside the Supreme Court in Tripoli, Nov. 6, 2014.

The internationally recognized Libyan parliament on Thursday rejected a Supreme Court ruling to invalidate it, saying the verdict was issued “under the threat of arms.”

“The House of Representatives rejects the verdict under these conditions and says it is still functioning, as is the government” elected on June 25, an official statement broadcast live on Libya Awalan television said.

Libya’s Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated the June election that produced the internationally recognized parliament and government, further plunging the country’s political scene in turmoil amid raging militia fighting.

The court’s ruling, which cannot be appealed, prompted celebratory gunfire in the capital Tripoli, which has been held by Islamist-led militia since August, an AFP correspondent reported.

But it piled further pressure on the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani which is holed up in the remote eastern town of Tobruk near the Egyptian border and has almost no control over Libya’s three main cities.

Abu-Bakr Baeira, a leading lawmaker in the Tobruk parliament, rejected the court decision, described it as “politicized” and said that it will only pave the way for the country’s partition, the Associated Press reported.

“Tripoli is hijacked,” he told The Associated Press over the phone from Tobruk. “We don’t recognize anything that comes out of it.” He added that the Tobruk parliament is now holding a session to discuss the ruling and take action.

The deputy head of the Tripoli parliament, however, hailed the ruling as a “victory for the nation.” Saleh al-Makhzoum said it had rendered the Tobruk parliament “nonexistent.”

The Tobruk parliament is the second elected legislative body since longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed in a 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising. Since then, Libya has been gripped by unrest as the weak central authorities have struggled to reign in regional, ideological and other militias vying for power.

The Misrata militias and their allies launched an offensive after Islamists lost in the June elections, eventually capturing Tripoli and its international airport, which was largely destroyed in weeks of fierce fighting.

After seizing Tripoli, the militias revived the outgoing parliament — whose mandate had expired — and formed a “salvation government.”

 
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