Alexander Malkevich, Chairman of the Russian Foundation for National Values Protection stated that the Russian sociologist Maxim Shogali, and translator Samer Suefan, were transferred from a local prison under the control of the Government of National Accord (GNA) to a Turkish military base at Mitiga airport. In an open letter to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Malkevich requested assistance be provided for the two detainees.
“I call on you to help solve this problem and return Maxim Shogali and Samer Suefan to their homeland, where their relatives and friends are waiting for them. The step will be another consolidation of the friendly relations between Russia and Turkey,” the letter read.
The two researchers were arrested in Martyrs Square by members of the Al-Rada Brigade. This occurred as they were interviewing citizens on their views of the government, and the situation in Libya. They were sent to Mitiga Prison in May 2019. One year later, they are yet to be charged for any crime.
The arrest has exposed tensions between the GNA’s Ministry of Interior (the de facto controller of armed groups) and the government itself, particularly Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj. According to local reports, the researchers had obtained information that would expose the internal affairs of the GNA to the international community. Such information includes the extent to which armed groups controlled the capital, and engaged in criminal activities.
Russia has strongly criticised the Turkish presence in Libya, and Ankara’s decision to support the GNA. This has led some observers to speculate that the continued detention of Russians nationals is a covert attempt to pressure Moscow to change its policy towards Libya.