MOSCOW -- Two dozen men from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were sentenced Monday to long prison terms in Libya for their work in support of the late Moammar Kadafi's regime, Russian news media reported.
The men -- 19 Ukrainians, three Belarussians and two Russians -- were convicted of aiding the Libyan military during its campaign last year against rebels and NATO forces by servicing weapons system, RIA Novosti and Russia-24 television reported. They were captured by the rebel forces in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, last fall as Kadafi's regime was overthrown.
Alexander Shadrov, a Russian described as a leader of the group, was sentenced to life in prison while his fellow countryman, Vladimir Dolgov, was given a 10-year term, Ilya Samonin, the consular department chief of the Russian Embassy in Tripoli, told Interfax. The rest of the defendants also received 10-year sentences.
Russia-24 aired video that showed a long line of men apparently being led out of the court building after sentencing. At least one of them was seen wiping tears from his eyes.
The men maintain that they were in Libya to work in the oil industry, RIA Novosti reported.
Dolgov’s wife, Taisiya Shilova, told Russia-24 that she had not seen her for a year. He left for Libya on June 16, 2011, to work for an oil company, she said.
“I am more than confident that he is not guilty of anything,” Shilova said in a televised interview. “He simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Thousands of people died in Libya during the civil war that ended Kadafi's rule. He was captured and killed by rebels Oct. 20.
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed indignation over the verdicts, which it called “unjust and unjustifiably harsh.”
“Moscow is expecting the Libyan authorities to rigorously observe all the rights of the Russian citizens,” Alexander Lukashevich, the ministry spokesman, said in a statement. “All necessary efforts will be continued without delay in coordination with the Ukrainian and Belarus colleagues ... to achieve a speediest resolution of the problem and a review of this clearly biased verdict.”
-- Sergei L. Loiko
Photo: A Libyan soldier guards a group of 24 foreigners convicted of aiding late Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's military during the rebellion against his rule last year. Credit: Sabri Elmhedwi / European Pressphoto Agency