Abubaker Mohamed Ghiryani was arrested on a Monday morning in 1997. “It was just before three in the morning when eight cars surrounded my home and fourteen men were at the door and on the roof. First, we heard a loud knock at the door. When I asked who was there, a voice from the outside said he was Mohamed and asked if I was Abubaker. When I confirmed, they kicked down the door and put a gun to my head.”
Ghiryani was taken to the holding cells of the Office for Combating Heresy and his books, cassettes and all materials related to his devout practice as a Muslim were confiscated from his home.
“I was interrogated and tortured there before being sent to Ain Zara prison. I spent seven months in a solitary cell in Ain Zara and went through all kinds of torture - mental, physical, intellectual. We didn’t have contact with our families, or know what our fate was or what we were accused of. I would have pled guilty to any accusation just to stop the torture.”
Ghiryani was tortured using electricity, hot plates, fire, whips and chains. “There was no relief. As soon as my body might start to heal, they would begin torturing me again. They would hang me like a roasting chicken, tying my hands and legs together with a stick and hanging me upside down. They would pin my limbs down, sit on my chest and beat me all over.”
Ghiryani was a devout Muslim who prayed at the local mosque daily and was part of a Muslim renaissance movement. “Ain Zara was the prison where people were interrogated and then either set free or sent to Abu Salim. I expected to be released. I knew they didn’t like our religious activities, but I didn’t expect to be accused of being part of an armed faction of the Muslim Brotherhood. Being transferred to Abu Salim was torture, because you lose all hope of knowing your fate.”
For five years, Ghiryani didn’t see a courtroom. Then, in 2002, he was one of 66 prisoners accused of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were found innocent and released. “Others were sentenced to life in prison or death.”
Ghiryani’s wife and children attended the court hearing. His youngest child didn’t recognise him. “My family didn’t know if I was alive or dead for over three years. I recognised a guard in the prison. He was a neighbor. So I gave him a note to give to my family. That’s how they knew about the court date.”
Devout Muslims were often targeted by the Gaddafi regime. Being openly devout and regularly attending prayers at the mosque would invite their attention. “Our values are based on our religion. Gaddafi tried to destroy those values. If we allowed their scare tactics and threats to stop us from praying at the mosque and spreading our values, then we would be allowing the system of depravity and perversity of Gaddafi and his ilk to win. Our struggle and challenge required perseverance and patience.”