After years of illegal and inhuman detention, commander Ajmi al-Atiri of the Abu Bakr al-Saddiq Battalion officially announced the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in Zintan. This comes by order of the government in Tobruk, which had previously passed a general amnesty law ordering the release of many political prisoners still held following the fall of the legitimate government in Libya.[1] Previously, pressures had prevented this law from being enforced for the release of Saif, however the current political crisis has forced the hand of prior enemies of Saif and Gaddafi loyalists. Nevertheless, this shows an acute weakness in the post-Gaddafi state(s) in Libya and the general grip over the country by the u.$.-backed traitors and compradores which have ripped the country apart over the greater part of a decade.

This is not the first time that news has broke surrounding the general amnesty law and the potential release of Saif from Zintan; in 2016 Saif’s lawyer claimed to have allegedly secured his release by order of the Tobruk government, despite the fact that the law remained unenforced in the case of Saif himself. This rumor was immediately circulated throughout the various information networks in Libya and even reached the west as many imperialists and compradore traitors began to nervously fidget in their seats.[2] This rumor, although false, demonstrated the extreme precariousness of the post-Gaddafi powers in Libya. To the compradore mercenary leaders who have carved up the country, any contest to their legitimacy is seen as a grave threat to their power.

The imperialists’ fear in hearing the name “Gaddafi” was, interestingly enough, coupled with the need of the weak government in Tobruk to appeal to Gaddafi loyalists in order to hold onto what fractured power they have. The Tobruk government specifically has relied rather heavily, in comparison to other factions, on the tentative support (or at least tolerance) of Gaddafi loyalists and former pro-Gaddafi militants.[3] So, for them, even the circulated rumor of a release in 2016 was politically useful in undermining the competing legitimacy of the opposing factions. However, it seemed for a time that this rumor was all that they were interested in, and that the idea of actually releasing Saif was too dangerous to be approached while their power was certain. Things have since changed, and the deepening crisis and civil war have thrown the certainty of Tobruk’s control into question.

It is unclear as of now where Saif will go. However, his freedom will serve as a beacon of national legitimacy and continuity to those who have had their fill of imperial sham “democracy” in a fractured post-Gaddafi Libya plagued by civil war. This by no means signals an end to the conflict in the foreseeable future, but it does lay bare the sharpening contradictions and deepening crisis which have eroded the authority of the Tobruk state, which so far has remained the most powerful of the post-Gaddafi leadership. New militia groups continue to establish themselves from the remnants of the national army, and add new dimensions of conflict to the political quagmire without fundamentally responding to its causes.[4 Further, the increased involvement of Egypt and other regional powers in the civil war has done absolutely nothing to mitigate the violent degeneration of the western-backed regimes. Saif’s release, if nothing else, gives us a picture of the illegitimacy of their power in Libya, which has been forced to make overtures to former enemies in the hope of surviving the developing conflict. It presents us with both a great anxiety for the continuing conflict, but now with a faint hope for a better future.

We should celebrate the release of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, as he is now returning as figure representing hope for the future of an independent Libya to the people who have been, like him, tormented by the imperialists. That said, we should not buy into the games of the crumbling government in Tobruk, or think that they have done this out of any interest in real justice. They had delayed his release for more than a year after passing a law for general amnesty which included Saif. His release, hopefully, will prove to be productive in the revival of popular sentiment for a national democratic movement in Libya opposed to the imperialist exploiters who have benefitted from battering the Libyan people for almost a decade. Let us hope that the last-ditch efforts of the compradores of Tobruk to salvage legitimacy will prove to be the beginning of the end for western imperialism in Libya.


  1. “Qaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam freed and left Zintan: report”, (Libya Herald)
  2. “Motives Behind the Rumor of Releasing Saif al-Islam”,  Monjaie Al-Zwae (Free Saif)
  3. “Qaddafi’s Son Saif Al-Islam freed and left Zintan: Report”, (Libya Herald)
  4. “Saif al-Islam Gaddafi freed from prison in Zintan”, (Aljazeera)

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Europe, Imperialism, Libya, News and Analysis, US/Canada


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