TRIPOLI – A Libyan court on Wednesday sentenced to death by firing squad 45 militiamen for killing demonstrators in Tripoli during the 2011 uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the justice ministry said.
It was the highest number of death sentences passed by a Libyan court in a single case since the overthrow of Gadhafi’s regime seven years ago.
Dozens of demonstrators were killed on August 21, 2011 when pro-regime militiamen opened fire near the Abu Slim district of the capital as rebel forces closed in on the capital, eight months into a NATO-backed revolt.
The ministry said in a statement that 54 other defendants were sentenced to five years in jail, 22 were acquitted, and three others had died before the verdict was reached.
The case against three other defendants was closed without a reason stated.
Gadhafi, who had ruled the country since a 1969 coup, was killed in October 2011 near his hometown of Sirte, south of the capital.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the uprising, with two rival authorities and a myriad of militias vying for control of territory and the country’s vast oil wealth.
An agreement struck in Paris in May to hold elections by the end of this year has done little to calm tensions.
Taking advantage of years of chaos, people smugglers have established Libya as a major transit point for African migrants seeking to reach Europe.
On top of insecurity and violence, ordinary Libyans have been hard hit by power cuts, fuel shortages and sharp rises in the price of basic goods.