Libya to compensate innocent prisoners

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Libya's government has announced it will compensate some people it had wrongfully imprisoned, the latest step in an effort to draw a line under a history of human rights abuses.

The categories of ex-prisoner who will be eligible for compensation payments include people who were detained without trial and prisoners who were convicted but later acquitted, the Justice Ministry said in a statement on its internet site.

A campaigner with Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement of compensation but said nearly 300 people are being wrongfully held in a prison run by Libya's internal security agency and should be released.

The Justice Ministry statement gave no details on which former inmates would receive the compensation, how many were eligible or how much money they would get.

But Oea, an influential newspaper with ties to a reformist son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, reported that the prisoners to receive compensation were ex-members of militant organisation the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The newspaper, citing what it called informed sources, said the compensation would range between 1,000 (£495) and 2,000 Libyan dinars for each month of imprisonment.

"I think it's an interesting sign," said Heba Morayef, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. But she said her group's focus was on the 280 people it believed were being wrongfully held in the Abu Salim jail, near Tripoli.