Haftar 'show horse' among assets targeted in US lawsuits

Haftar 'show horse' among assets targeted in US lawsuits
Lawyers for the families of alleged victims of torture are targeting a pedigree Arabian show horse which has competed in international competitions.
3 min read
09 November, 2020
Haftar is said to have ammased millions of dollars of assets in Virginia [AFP]

New details have emerged surrounding US federal lawsuits filed in the State of Virginia and Washington against Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar by families of alleged victims of torture and extrajudicial killings, in a report on Monday by The Wall Stree Journal.

The plaintiffs are said to be targeting US assets worth millions of dollars owned by the eastern commander as compensation for his alleged involvement in war crimes, according to the report.

Most of the 17 Haftar-linked properties are owned by limited liability companies that are controlled by his son Okba Haftar, the report found.

One company is registered at a 5,600 square-foot house in Great Falls, Fairfax County, and is valued at nearly $2.5 million, according to state business licenses and property records. Records also list a condo in the city of Falls Church, as well as a three-bedroom ranch in rural Virginia, among Haftar’s alleged assets.

As recently as July, the eastern commander's son reportedly purchased a $700,000 horse farm in the small town of Boyce, which has a population of 589, according to a 2010 census.

Notably, lawyers for the plaintiffs are targeting a pedigree Arabian show horse which has competed in international competitions in the France and the UAE.

The horse is registered under the name "Saddam Kh. Belgasim Omer", a portmanteau of the names of Haftar's sons Saddam and Belgaism, according to a public database of horse ownership. 

The key arguments which lawyers are pushing rest on are Haftar's long-time residency in the US and ownership of assets there, two facts which prosecutors say are sufficient grounds for granting Virginia state jurisdiction over Haftar's alleged war crimes in Libya.

They rely on a seldom used law, the 1991 Torture Victims Protection Act, which allows survivors of crimes to sue foreign authorities for damages in a US court.

The lawsuits, filed by families of victims, claim that civilians were killed indiscriminately during Haftar's military campaigns. Families allege that their relatives were singled out for torture and execution by Haftar’s militia.

Read more: US court hears torture case against Libyan warlord Haftar

Haftar, once a leading commander to ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, defected to the US during the 80s and spent many years in northern Virginia. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA while in exile.

Khalifa Haftar leads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), an armed militias affiliated with the Tobruk government in the country's east.

Haftar led an unsuccessful campaign to seize the capital Tripoli from Libya's United Nations-supported Government of National Accord (GNA) since last year.

On Monday, the country’s UN envoy expressed optimism about dialogue talks held in Tunisia between Libya's rival sides, which came on the back of a joint ceasefire agreement.

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