Benghazi – Libyan Jew Returns To UK Safely After Security Forces Imprisoned Him For Several Days
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.
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