Clashes in Libya as protesters prepare for ‘Day of Anger’ (Second Lead, changing dateline)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CAIRO/TRIPOLI - At least 38 people were injured when police clashed with hundreds of demonstrators in the Libyan city of Benghazi overnight, media reports said Wednesday.

Quryna newspaper quoted a medical source as saying that all the injured were treated in hospital, but later released.

The newspaper, which referred to the protesters as “saboteurs” in earlier reports, is owned by Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.

Clashes erupted ahead of what activists called a “Day of Anger” Thursday, as they sought to end Gaddafi’s 41-year-old rule, following revolts in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

“Pressure from the street is big. In Libya, the same will happen like in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Abdulhamid Salim al-Haasi, a spokesman for the London-based National Conference of the Libyan Opposition (NCLO).

He urged young Libyans to demonstrate “peacefully” and not to seek direct confrontation with the state powers.

Anti-Gaddafi demonstrators hurled stones at police, who responded with water cannon, the online newspaper Libya al-Youm reported.

A video posted on the internet showed protesters tearing up posters of the Libyan leader. Another showed people chanting “the regime is barbaric, we are not” and “enough”.

The European Union urged Libyan authorities to allow anti-government protesters to demonstrate and take their demands seriously.

Protesters in Benghazi were angered by the arrest of activist and lawyer Fathi Turbil, who was reportedly freed after the protest.

Turbil represents families of prisoners killed in Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail, where more than 1,000 prisoners died in 1996. Families of the victims have been demanding that the culprits be punished.

Government sources said that 110 prisoners detained in Abu Salim prison were to be released Wednesday.

State-owned al-Jamahirya TV, meanwhile, showed hundreds of Libyans demonstrating nationwide in support of the government.

“The protesters were expressing their eternal adhesion to their leader,” the channel said, showing pictures of them carrying Gaddafi portraits and green banners, as well as criticizing the television network Al Jazeera.

“Tell Al Jazeera we want no one else but our leader,” chanted Gaddafi supporters in the cities of Tripoli and Sirte.

The demonstration follows political unrest in Egypt, Yemen and Algeria which has seen anti-government protesters calling for more employment opportunities, reform and democracy.

The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt ultimately toppled the presidents in both countries.

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