[JURIST] The government of Libya [official website; JURIST news archive] has released two men [HRW press release] convicted in 2007 of planning to overthrow the government and meeting with a foreign official, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced Tuesday. Jamal al-Haji and Faraj Humaid were arrested as part of a larger group in Tripoli in February 2007, in advance of a demonstration commemorating the deaths of 11 people during a 2006 clash between protesters and police. The nine other men arrested with al-Haji and Humaid were released [Frontline Defenders report] by the end of 2008. HRW Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson called the men's release "a particularly welcome step in light of the Libyan authorities' stated initiative of breaking with the past."
Libya has had a mixed human rights record in recent years. The release of the political prisoners comes as relations between Libya and the US are improving, though the State Department recently criticised [JURIST report] Libya for its continued detention of political prisoners [JURIST report] in its 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [DOS materials]. In 2008, the US and Libya reached an agreement to settle all pending lawsuits [JURIST report] brought by US terror victims against Libya. In 2004, the US lifted the remaining sanctions [JURIST report] against Libya as a reward for its agreement to dismantle its weapons programs. At the same time, Libya faced international criticism [JURIST report] for its treatment of six foreign medics [JURIST news archive] accused infecting hospital patients with HIV in 2007.