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JPost Libya Jew returns to UK post-Benghazi jailing

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  • Paul
    JPost Tue, Jul 31, 2012 The Jerusalem Post Libya Jew returns to UK post-Benghazi jailing By GIL SHEFLER 07/31/2012 05:19 Businessman Raphael Luzon held,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2012
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      JPost Tue, Jul 31, 2012
      The Jerusalem Post

      Libya Jew returns to UK post-Benghazi jailing
      07/31/2012 05:19
      Businessman Raphael Luzon held, interrogated by ‘preventive security’
      for four days, doesn’t advise any Jew to go to Libya.


      Raphael Luzon, a former Libyan Jew, returned to the UK safely on Sunday
      after security forces in Benghazi imprisoned and interrogated him for
      several days.

      Luzon said his ordeal began in Benghazi on July 22 when “suddenly a
      friend sent me a text warning me to be careful that security forces are
      looking for me,” he recalled. “I immediately called the Italian consul
      who came to my hotel, but when I went to the lobby to meet him he was
      surrounded by 12 to 15 armed men.

      They didn’t let the consul speak, they put me in the car and took me
      outside Benghazi.”

      Luzon, who said he was in the country for business, was kept behind bars
      at a military camp outside the Mediterranean city without being told why.

      “I felt my life was in danger for the first 24 hours because no one knew
      where I was or what had happened to me,” Luzon said. “In the morning
      high officials came. One of them, a general shouted at my captors saying
      they should have brought me food and water.”

      The Libyan Jew said men he identified as belonging to the muchabarat, or
      the preventive security, interrogated him daily.

      Meanwhile, news that a “Jewish leader was abducted” appeared in the
      Libyan press.

      After four days in prison, Luzon was freed and kept under house arrest
      at a friend’s residence in Benghazi.

      Still, he was not allowed to leave the country. A citizen of Britain and
      Italy, Luzon said both countries intervened on his behalf. He credited
      British MP Robert Halfon, whose father was a Libyan Jew, and Italian
      consul Guido Bessanti, for securing his release.

      Asked why he had been arrested, Luzon said he was still not sure.

      “I don’t know why, but privately I’ve been told that there is a big
      fight between the groups and everybody wanted to be the one that
      arrested and released me,” he said.

      Luzon and other members of the former Jewish community of Libya, who
      were forced to leave the country in the 1960s and 1970s, have for years
      been lobbying for the return of considerable private and communal Jewish
      assets that were confiscated by the regime of slain dictator Muammar
      Gaddafi. After Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, there was hope the country might
      open up and address the grievances of its exiled Jews, but so far little
      progress has been made.

      Last year David Gerbi, another Libyan-born Jew, received death threats
      after he tried to reconsecrate a synagogue in Tripoli, forcing him to
      flee the country.

      Luzon, who makes a point of distancing himself from Gerbi, has been
      negotiating with Libyan officials over the rights of Jews to little avail.

      Elio Raccah, a member of the Jewish Libyan community in exile based in
      Italy, the country’s former colonial ruler, said he had few expectations
      that he would be welcome back to Libya in the near future.

      “What really counts is popular sentiment, I am convinced nothing has
      really changed over there as far as the Jews are concerned,” he wrote in
      an email to the Post. “[The Libyans believe Jews are] undesired greedy
      ogres to be ridden of in Palestine and, of course, in Libya.”

      The question of Jewish rights remains mute in Libya, where a multitude
      of rival groups and clans are fighting for power in the power vacuum
      created by Gaddafi’s ousting. Last month, when elections were held for
      the first time, the National Forces Alliance, a non-Islamist, liberal
      party, emerged triumphant, bucking the Islamist trend in Arab Spring
      countries like Tunisia and Egypt. It remains to be seen, however,
      whether Western-educated Mahmoud Jibril who leads the party will be able
      to reestablish the rule of law in the oil-rich nation.

      Despite his recent experience, Luzon said he had not given up fighting
      for the rights of Libyan Jews.

      “It will take a long, long time if they will allow some Jewish assets to
      be returned,” he said, “but I think the country would allow Jews to
      return for holiday or business in a few years.”

      “They were under a regime for decades and they do not distinguish
      between a Jew and a Jewish Zionist, religious or secular,” Luzon added.

      Meanwhile, he added, “at the moment I do not advise any Jew to go to Libya.”
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