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Medavia officers arrested in Libya

Abdulrazagh Zmirli.

Abdulrazagh Zmirli.

Two high-level managers of Malta-based air services company Medavia were being held under arrest by Libyan anti-militia police yesterday.

Medavia managing director Abdulrazagh Zmirli and technical general manager Abdalla Dekna were being interrogated in the northwestern city of Zawija after police seized them in the VIP lounge of Tripoli airport last Tuesday, minutes before they boarded a Malta-bound plane.

Reports indicated the two men were arrested following claims they helped the Gaddafi regime during last year’s conflict.

But despite having been arrested last Tuesday, Libyan authorities had yet to charge either of the two men, with a judicial decision to charge or release the men expected tomorrow.

Mr Zmirli, in particular, is highly respected within the Libyan community in Malta for having kept Medavia going and retained its employees despite the upheaval in Libya. He was also instrumental in the organisation of Red Cross relief efforts to Libya during the uprising.

A spokesman for the Maltese Government, which has a stake in Medavia, said the Government was aware of Mr Zmirli’s arrest and was monitoring the situation.

Family worried

Medavia financial general manager Joe Formosa said the company was convinced the charges against the two men were unfounded.

“We’re doing everything within our power to have them released as soon as possible, while of course respecting the course of law in Libya,” Mr Formosa said.

Last night, Mr Zmirli remained in the custody of Zawija authorities. His son Ismael told The Times that the family were all very concerned.

“My father and Mr Dekna are being treated well, but it’s still very worrying and we can’t call or speak to them. We’re just trying to remain calm and hoping for good news.”

Medavia was one of several joint Maltese-Libyan ventures indirectly affected by EU sanctions imposed on the Libyan Foreign Investment Company, or Lafico, during the war.

The sanctions came at an unfortunate time for the company, which had just invested upwards of €10 million in a new hangar and office block at the Safi aviation park.

It continued to operate throughout the crisis and carried out several evacuation flights with injured people out of war-torn Libya.

Mr Zmirli, an engineer by training, was previously a non-executive director of Corinthia Hotels and occupied a similar non-executive post at Mediterranean Investment Holdings.

As well as heading Medavia, he sits on the board of trustees of the Mariam Al-Batool school in Paola.

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