The Libyan warlord, Khalifa Haftar who still believes he has a respectable chance of becoming President one day, faced early proceedings in a US court presented by Libyan families who claim they suffered under his hands in Libya. The case has come about in Virgina, USA, as it is believed Haftar owns property in this state which could be sold and used as the financial grounds for compensation.
He stands accused of orchestrating indiscriminate attacks on civilians and torturing and killing political opponents, according to an advocacy group that supports the lawsuit.
According to AP, the plaintiffs who sued Khalifa Haftar had been waiting for years to question him directly about his role in fighting over the last decade.
Hafter, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, is a defendant in three separate federal lawsuits in Virginia accusing him of killings and torture in that country’s civil war.
Once a lieutenant to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Haftar defected to the U.S. during the 1980s and spent many years living in northern Virginia. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.
Plaintiffs believe that he and his own family own significant property in Virginia, which could be used to collect any judgments entered against him in the U.S.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had entered a default judgment against Hafter in July after he failed to show up for earlier depositions. Last month, though, Brinkema agreed to set aside that ruling if Haftar sat for a deposition by Nov. 6.
Haftar’s U.S. lawyer had asked the judge to reconsider the default judgment, saying Hafter’s duties as a military commander fighting in Libya made it difficult for him to schedule a deposition. There are other political considerations which were also taken into account.
According to reports on November 9th, in an affidavit Hafter submitted in September, he said the Libyan authorities to whom he answers as commander of the Libyan National Army did not want him to participate in a deposition “because it would be used by plaintiffs and political opponents in the media.”
He also said he is a still a candidate for the Libyan presidency if and when those elections can be held.
“The false charges in this lawsuit have been used by my political opponents to undermine my candidacy and disrupt the peace process,” Khalifa said in the affidavit.
The claims relate to the Libyan National Army’s long, drawn out campaign against Islamists in Benghazi and its surroundings.
The Hamza family alleges they were “victims of LNA war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism” under Haftar’s command.
Forced to flee their home in February 2016, the family claim they were thereafter caught up in bombardment of civilian targets and sniper attacks. Unable to flee the area, at one point, they said they were forced to eat grass and tree bark. They said that a strike in January 2017 on a block in which they were sheltering led to the death of two girls aged three and eight and an 11 year-old boy. The husband of the surviving daughter, she was reportedly aged ten, was later detained by the LNA and it is claimed is still being held without charge.