|"A wall outside the Benghazi courthouse bears images of men who have been imprisoned or killed by Moammar Kadafi." (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)|
1996 Prison Massacre a Spark in Libyan Revolution
By Raja Abdulrahim
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2011
"Every month for nearly 10 years, Ezzedin abu Azza's family traveled to the gates of Abu Salim prison in Tripoli to deliver a package of clothes, food and medicine, not knowing whether it ever reached him. They hadn't seen him since the day in 1993 when the 23-year-old was taken away for questioning by state security agents. But still they made their journey from Benghazi every month. Then, in 2002, the family was told he had died, six years earlier. Here in this eastern city that has long simmered with resentment over the brutal rule of Moammar Kadafi, the Abu Azzas were among the lucky ones. Other families would wait another six years, or longer, to hear that their loved ones were among a reported 1,200 political prisoners at Abu Salim who were killed, in a matter of hours, in June 1996 as they fought for better living conditions and the right to see their families. Other families have never been officially informed and only assume that their loved ones are among the dead. When the government in 2008 began notifying many of the families of the deaths, they set up mourning tents and posted obituaries. 'We were notified 12 years after his death,' many obituaries read, brashly pointing an accusatory finger at the government. Now, a decade and a half after the massacre, the prisoners' stories and an unprecedented call for justice by their families helped spark a revolution.