Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 12:49 UK

Libya frees 'insulting' dissident Jamal al-Haggi

Libyan demonstrators hold pictures of Colonel Gaddaffi
Libya has changed its foreign policy, but not its domestic policy HRW says

A court in Libya has freed a dissident who faced 15 years in jail for complaining he was tortured in prison.

Jamal al-Haggi was acquitted of charges that he insulted judicial officials, Human Rights Watch said.

Libya's State Security Court threw out the charges saying they were "inappropriate", his lawyer told the organisation.

Mr Haggi's arrest in December 2009 had been an "embarrassment" to Libya's human rights record, HRW said.

His release was reported on Wednesday and confirmed by Human Rights Watch on Thursday.

In May 2009 Mr Haggi sent a five-page letter to the court saying he was tortured by prison officials when he was in jail on a previous occasion.

'An embarrassment'

Months before he was arrested Mr Haggi gave an interview to the BBC saying how he feared for his life and the lives of his family members.

Libya has significantly changed its foreign policy, but it has not altered its domestic policy on dissent
Heba Morayef
Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch said Western governments should push for legal reform in Libya, as the penal code continues to allow for dissidents' arrests.

A recommendation for Libya's State Security Court to be abolished was made in December 2009 in the first annual report of the Human Rights Society of the Gaddafi Foundation.

The Human Rights Society is run by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's sons - and believed to be among those who want to liberalise the country.

"Libya has significantly changed its foreign policy, but it has not altered its domestic policy on dissent," said HRW researcher on Libya, Heba Morayef.

"There had been the position that there were no political prisoners in Libya - Mr Haggis' arrest was an embarrassment to those who said that."

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