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Libyan transition leader declares liberation
The announcement was clouded, however, by international pressure to explain how ousted dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi had been captured alive days earlier, then ended up dead from a gunshot to his head shortly afterward.
Gadhafi’s death in circumstances that are still unclear, and the gruesome spectacle of his body laid out as a trophy in a commercial freezer and on public view, are testing the new Libyan leaders’ commitment to the rule of law. Even at the ceremony to declare liberation, a couple speakers in positions of authority essentially said Gadhafi got what he deserved.
“You should only embrace honesty, patience and mercy,” Mr. Abdul-Jalil told the crowd at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Gadhafi. He urged Libyans to reconcile their differences.
And he laid out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation and existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified.
In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing guns in the air, but rather to chant “Allahu kkbar,” or “God is great.” He then stepped aside from the podium and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.
Using Sharia as the main source of legislation is stipulated in the constitution of neighboring Egypt. Still, Egyptian laws remain largely secular as Sharia does not cover all aspects of modern-day life.
The uprising against Gadhafi erupted in February as part of anti-government revolts spreading across the Middle East. Neighboring Tunisia, which put the so-called Arab Spring in motion with mass protests nearly a year ago, has taken the biggest step on the path to democracy, voting for a new assembly Sunday in its first truly free elections. Egypt, which has struggled with continued unrest, is next with parliamentary elections slated for November.
Libya’s struggle has been the bloodiest so far in the region. Mass protests quickly turned into a civil war that killed thousands and paralyzed the country for the past eight months. Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte was the last loyalist stronghold to fall last week, but Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam Gadhafi apparently escaped with some of his supporters.
Mr. Abdul-Jalil paid tribute to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the European Union. NATO, which aided the anti-Gadhafi fighters with airstrikes, performed its task with “efficiency and professionalism,” he added.
President Obama congratulated Libyans on the declaration.
“After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise,” he said.
But just hours before that statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Britain’s new defense secretary, Philip Hammond, said a full investigation into Gadhafi’s death is necessary.
Mr. Hammond said the Libyan revolutionaries’ image had been “a little bit stained” by Gadhafi’s death, adding that the new government “will want to get to the bottom of it in a way that rebuilds and cleanses that reputation.”
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