Tripoli: Driving trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, dozens of militiamen surrounded the Justice Ministry in Tripoli today, the third day of confrontation between the government and armed groups in the Libyan capital.
It was the latest in a series of shows of force by militias, most of which have ended without bloodshed but interrupted the country`s political transition and created a climate of intimidation and a weakened state.
Militias, some of which evolved out of the rebel groups that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, say they are rising up to force officials from the deposed dictator`s regime from holding government posts, according to the state-own news agency LANA.
However, Libyan democracy activists say that they are bullying the government of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who has vowed to restore the authority of the state, to prevent him from disbanding them.
Today, militiamen sealed off the roads to the Justice Ministry with their trucks, closed the building and turned away visitors.
On Sunday, about 200 armed men surrounded the Foreign Ministry and a day later, armed men stormed the Interior Ministry and a state-owned television station al-Wataniya TV, forcing its employees out and stopping its live broadcast. Journalists said they were beaten up and intimidated.
The unrest comes as Libya`s legislature, the General National Congress, debates a draft law for "political isolation" which effectively filters out those who held any post under Gaddafi from political life.
An initial version of the law presented to the parliament would have banned a whole ruling class from politics, even though some had minor posts or left the government decades before the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi. One figure who might be targeted by the law, GNC head Mohammed el-Megarif, was ambassador to India before defecting to the opposition in 1980. A second is Mahmoud Jibril, a former aide to Gaddafi`s son and the liberal-leaning head of the National Forces Alliance, the bloc with the biggest number of seats in parliament.
But the latest version of the draft law, posted on the official Facebook page of the GNC yesterday, included a new article that gives parliament powers to exempt some figures from the law, in apparent attempt to prevent removal of key figures.
That version is unlikely to satisfy the protesting militias and others who want a thorough purge of Libya`s political class.