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Libya holding Gaddafi critic, says US rights group

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) Libya detained an outspoken critic of the country's leader Muammar Gaddafi a month ago and he has not been heard from since, US-based Human Rights Watch said today.

Libya's internal security agency detained Idrees Mohamed Boufayed, a doctor who had lived in exile in Switzerland for the past 16 years, in Tripoli on November 5, the group said.

Human Rights Watch requested information on Boufayed's detention from the Libyan government on November 20, but said it has not received a reply. A spokesman for Libya's mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment.

''We urge the Libyan government to release Dr Boufayed immediately,'' said Sarah Leah Whitson, West Asia and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ''It appears they've locked him up for expressing views they don't like.'' Human Rights Watch said Boufayed returned to Libya for a visit on September 30 and that security agents took his passport at the airport.

Boufayed then traveled to his family home about 120 km south of Tripoli where he continued posting articles on Libyan opposition Web sites, denouncing Gaddafi and calling for peaceful political change.

He disappeared after the Internal Security Agency told him to report to its Tripoli office.

''Libya may be opening to the world, but the government is still locking up its critics,'' Whitson said in a statement.

Reuters SRS VP0155

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