22 Jul 2019 12:55

Finding lawyers for 2 Russians arrested in Libya currently impossible - head of Foundation for Protection of National Values

MOSCOW. July 22 (Interfax) - The search for a lawyer for the two Russian employees of the Foundation for the Protection of National Values who have been charged in Libya with electoral interference, is being compounded by the political situation in that country and the arrests of those who were trying to help them, the foundation's head Alexander Malkevich said.

"There is political terrorism going on against Russians in Libya. Libyan lawyers are refusing to work because all those who interacted in any way with our guys, who made enquiries, tried to help or figure out their fate - all of them got arrested," Malkevich told Interfax on Monday.

Among them are a travel firm director, a Libyan public figure's lawyer, and the neighbors of the employees, he said.

Currently there are about 200 foreigners at Libyan prisons, none of them with a right to defense, including four Russians: the two foundation employees and two sailors, who were detained in 2016, the foundation said.

"Official Libyan authorities are not in control of their own territories, everyone does as he sees fit. So we want to appeal to the international community to demand the release of all of the detained Russians," Malkevich said.

The country lacks courts and traditional institutions of law, so appealing to the international community is the only way to secure the Russians' release, he said.

The Russians were tortured in custody, Malkevich said.

"Unfortunately, we are aware that the jail conditions are not just poor, they were and possibly still are physically tortured," he told journalists.

The torturers are trying to "extract a confession so as to get a picture of Russians having been detained for plotting something," he said.

Since their arrest the Russians have been provided neither with a lawyer nor a chance to make a phone call, he said.

"Their crime was public activity, communicating with citizens, which is also a crime nowadays," Malkevich said.

It was reported that Libyan prosecutors had charged two of the foundation's employees with meddling in elections.

Their arrest was reported on July 5 by the Bloomberg agency, which cited documents made available to it.

At the time, Malkevich told Interfax that the foundation's representatives were in touch with Libyan authorities following the arrest of Maxim Shugalei, a sociologist and head of field research group at the foundation, and his translator.