Russia will take drastic measures, including the use of political leverage, after heavy sentences were handed out to Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals for helping troops supporting former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Tuesday.
On Monday the Libyan authorities announced verdicts to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians who had been detained for helping Gaddafi’s troops. One Russian, who was charged with coordinating the group, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Other defendants were sentenced to ten years imprisonment with labor.
The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have expressed outrage and said they would seek the release of their citizens. Bogdanov said that he had discussed the situation with Ukrainian Foreign Ministry special envoy for the Middle East, Yevgeny Mikitenko.
"We will coordinate our work with our Belarusian and Ukrainian colleagues concerning drastic measures. Of course there will be an appeal and we will be using other levers of influence on the legal proceedings. And we will also use political leverage and our community," Bogdanov said.
Two Russian citizens, 19 Ukrainians, and three Belarusians were arrested last autumn by the Transitional National Council (PNC) of Libya. They were accused of taking part in military operations on the side of troops loyal to the ousted former Libyan leader.
"We were outraged with the court’s decision, we believe that this is unfair, we will follow the case seriously," the Deputy Foreign Minister said.
The head of the consular department of the Russian Embassy in Tripoli, Ilya Samunin, confirmed an appeal would be filed with the Libyan court within 10 days.
"In accordance with Libyan law, the appeal must be filed within 60 days. We are planning to resolve procedural issues (in time) from a week to 10 days,” Samunin said.
In reply to questions about whether Russia would seek to extradite its citizens Bogdanov said he was awaiting legal advice, “I do not know we have lawyers, lawyers who will offer the best way," and adding "We will explore all possible means, we will use maximum effort.”