A Virginia judge has issued a default judgment against putschist Libyan military commander General Khalifa Haftar after he repeatedly failed to appear for depositions in a federal trial in which he is accused of war crimes.
The exact amount of the judgment against Haftar, who has lived for decades in the United States, will be determined at a later date. Because Haftar and his family have owned extensive property in northern Virginia since he was in the country, according to the plaintiffs, they are optimistic that they can collect any judgment rendered.
In a hearing on Friday in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Judge Leonie Brinkema adopted the recommendations of a magistrate who said plaintiffs should be given a default judgment.
The magistrate’s report cited Haftar’s repeated refusal to sit for scheduled depositions on his role in the fighting that has plagued the country for the past decade.
Three separate lawsuits have been filed against Haftar by different plaintiffs. Some say family members were killed by military bombardments carried out by Haftar’s army in civilian areas. Others accuse Haftar’s forces of capturing, torturing and killing members of his family.
In court documents, Haftar tried to claim immunity from prosecution as head of state. After Haftar failed to appear in May for his last scheduled deposition, his lawyers filed a motion to withdraw from the case, saying he had stopped communicating with them and paying his legal fees.
Once a lieutenant to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar defected to the United States in the 1980s and spent many years living in northern Virginia. according to the trials. It is widely believed that he worked with the CIA while in exile.
He returned to Libya to support anti-Gaddafi forces who revolted against the dictator and killed him in 2011. For the past decade he has led the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), which has controlled much of the eastern half of the country, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A United Nations-backed government controls the capital in Tripoli, with significant support from Turkey. A ceasefire between the warring parties in 2020 was supposed to lead to elections in December 2021, but they never took place. Negotiations to set a new election have failed. A sticking point has been whether to bar the military as well as people with dual nationality from running for the country’s top job, terms that would eliminate Haftar as a candidate.
The charges were stayed last year after Brinkema expressed concern that they could be used to interfere with the country’s presidential elections, in which Haftar was a candidate.
She reinstated the prosecution when the election was postponed with no foreseeable rescheduling.
Esam Omeish, president of the Libyan American Alliance, which supports a group of plaintiffs, welcomed Brinkema’s decision and said she “should send a clear message to the international community to stop supporting a criminal of war and a potential dictator in any Libyan political project”. regulation.”