Libya: Urgent call for the immediate release of a religious minority leader

Sheikh Muftah Al-Amin Al-Biju, Libyan Sufi religious leader

Tunis, 20 February 2024 – Sheikh Muftah Al-Amin Al-Biju, a prominent religious figure in the Libyan Sufi community, aged 74, battling diabetes and recovering from cancer, was forcibly abducted from his home near Benghazi more than two weeks ago.

The assailants, who arrived in four civilian vehicles, stormed the residence and a Quranic centre run by Al-Biju, brandishing weapons and spreading terror among the sheikh's family. After the illegal arrest without a warrant and ill-treatment, the vehicles used in the abduction were traced back to their base, leading to the identification of two factions known for their Salafist ideologies, one of which is hostile to Sufis and other Islamic groups.

This attack on Sheikh Al-Biju is not the first of its kind: in 2013, this renown scholar recognised by many scholars in North Africa, narrowly survived an assassination attempt by ISIS. Since then, he has been threatened by Salafist elements in Libya, leading to the seizure of his Quranic centre and forcing him to move it to his private property.

The Libyan Anti-Torture Network (LAN) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) strongly condemn the abduction, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest, and detention of Sheikh Al-Biju. Given his advanced age, he must have immediate access to his doctors to receive appropriate care. If the Libyan authorities have any legal concerns regarding the Sheikh, it is imperative that he be able to benefit from legal representation. Our two organisations also denounce the violence faced by Sheikh Al-Biju's elderly wife and the stealing of large sums of wealth from their home. These acts constitute violations of human rights, and particularly a serious attack on freedom of religion.

LAN and the OMCT urgently call on the Libyan authorities to open a thorough investigation into these serious incidents and speed up Sheikh Al-Biju’s release, so that he can be reunited with his family.