Updated: Government wants access to arrested Medavia chiefs

'No foreign government has right to interfere in Libya's internal affairs'

Abdulrazagh Zmirli. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Abdulrazagh Zmirli. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Libyan authorities are “actively considering” a request for diplomatic access to two arrested managers, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Francis Zammit Dimech.

The request was made in line with diplomatic protocol because one of the managers, Abdulrazagh Zmirli, is also a Maltese citizen.

But a source close to the militia in Zawija told today that no foreign government had the right to interfere in Libya's internal affairs. said the source expressed surprise that the Maltese government was trying to get involved in the case.

Mr Zmirli, the source said, was primarily a Libyan, would be treated well and if he was found to be innocent, he would be released in due time.

The Matlese Government asked to be formally notified of the charges against the two men.

A judicial decision to charge or release the men still had to be taken but Libyan sources said the Zawija police seem to have applied a Gaddafi-era law that allows detention for up to 45 days.

Mr Zmirli, managing director of Malta-based air services company Medavia, and the firm’s technical general manager Abdalla Dekna were arrested by Libyan anti-militia police last week.

“The request to have access to Mr Zmirli was made in the past days and we are informed it is being actively considered by the Libyan authorities,” Dr Zammit Dimech said yesterday.

He said the Government was closely monitoring the situation and keeping contact with people close to the men.

Mr Zmirli and Mr Dekna are being held for questioning in the northwestern city of Zawija. Reports indicated they were arrested following claims they helped the Gaddafi regime during last year’s conflict.

Dr Zammit Dimech said the Government could not interfere with the judicial process of another country but was making sure the men were looked after.

“We are assured that Mr Zmirli and Mr Dekna are being well looked after and they have access to a lawyer,” he said.

Medavia financial general manager Joe Formosa said nothing had changed since the two men were arrested: “They are still being detained for questioning.”

Mr Zmirli’s son, Ismael, who lives in Malta, told The Times this was a difficult time for the family and they were “waiting and hoping for the best”.

“My father has nothing to hide,” he added.

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 during the uprising against the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Zmirli was also instrumental in the organisation of Red Cross relief efforts to Libya during the uprising.

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

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

Mr Zmirli, an engineer, 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 is a trustee of the Mariam Al-Batool school in Paola.


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