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Libya Frees Hundreds of Inmates over Virus Concerns

Libya Frees Hundreds of Inmates over Virus Concerns

Monday, 30 March, 2020 - 05:30
A mask-clad costumer pays from behind a barrier amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a supermarket in the Libyan capital on March 25, 2020. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

The justice ministry of Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) announced Sunday over 450 prisoners were being freed in a bid to protect against the spread of coronavirus in the wake of the country's first declared infections.

Judicial officials decided to "free 466 detainees from correctional facilities" in Tripoli, according to a ministry statement.

The detainees were in pretrial detention or had qualified for conditional release, the statement added.

The GNA announced five new coronavirus cases in the western city of Misrata on Sunday, bringing the tally of infections confirmed in Libya to eight. The country's first case had been confirmed on Tuesday.

Other measures "aimed at reducing the overpopulation of prisons" will follow, including amnesty for elderly or ill prisoners and those who have served over half their sentences, according to the ministry statement.

Human Rights Watch said the "authorities should do more to mitigate the risks of a major COVID-19 outbreak".

Libyan authorities "need to be prepared to limit the spread of the virus in overcrowded detention facilities and shelters for displaced people," HRW said in a statement.

"If the COVID-19 pandemic spreads in Libya, the country's health care system won't be able to cope with large numbers of patients," said HRW Libya researcher Hanan Salah.

Both Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar have taken preventative measures against the spread of the virus, including closing schools, some businesses, markets and even private clinics.

The GNA announced an extended curfew on Sunday from 2pm local time (1200 GMT) until 7am, starting from Monday.

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