MOSCOW, June 4 (RIA Novosti) – A Libyan military court handed down on Monday long prison terms to a group of men from former Soviet republics on charges that they worked to repair military equipment for the Middle East country’s late strongman leader, Muammar Gaddafi.
The court in Tripoli sentenced one Russian national to life behind bars and another to ten years for what prosecutors said was their role in the renovation of military equipment, including surface-to-air missiles, during last year’s Western-aided revolt against Gaddafi’s almost 40-year rule.
Nineteen Ukrainian nationals and two Belarusians were also jailed for ten years.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “bewilderment and indignation” at what it said were the “unjustified and harsh sentences” handed down to its nationals and said it would appeal the ruling. Both the Ukrainian and Belarusian foreign ministries have also said they will appeal the decisions.
All the men say they had gone to Libya to work in the oil sector.
The Russians admitted, however, they had also worked on military equipment, but said they were forced to do so after “threats to their lives,” Russian embassy in Tripoli spokesman Ilya Samunin said.
Russia abstained from the March 2011 United Nations vote that led to NATO airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces.