TRIPOLI: Libyan authorities on Friday released four members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas who were arrested in 2016 on charges including trafficking arms to Gaza, according to Libyan media.
The four men — Marwan Al-Ashqar, his son Baraa, Mouayad Abed and Nasib Choubeir — were detained in Tripoli in October 2016.
Their arrest was made public by the Libyan prosecutor’s office a few months later.
In February 2019, they were sentenced by a Tripoli court to terms ranging from 17 to 22 years in prison, according to Libyan media, on charges of arms trafficking and spying.
Their release on Friday was reported by several Libyan media, which said that the men were freed at the request of the Libyan prosecutor’s office following Turkish mediation.
There was no immediate official confirmation of their release, including from the government of Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah.
Reports said the four men, who were incarcerated in the Mitiga detention center in Tripoli, left for Turkiye then Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leadership.
An unverified image, shared on social media, showed three men in what appeared to be a private jet.
Their reported release comes against the backdrop of a nearly eight-week-old war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The fighting was triggered by an unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 during which about 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and around 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
The Hamas government in Gaza says Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.
Thrown into chaos since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya is split between Dbeibah’s United Nations-supported government in the west and a rival administration in the east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.