Libyan native Tawfik Sharkasi says Colonel Moammar Qaddafi should face an international tribunal for the killings of thousands of protesters in the country.
Tawfik Sharkasi is a Chicagoan who was born and raised in the eastern city of Benghazi, where protests first began and where he still has many friends and family members. He told WBEZ's Worldview host Jerome McDonnell that the international community should offer Qaddafi safe passage out of Libya to hasten political change - and to hold him accountable for his more than four decades rule.
"I would really like to see Qaddafi stand trial," Sharkasi said. "I don't want to see him killed. I want to see him face an international tribunal not just for the massacre today, but for the killings and attrocities throughout his 42-year regime."
Protesters in the Libyan capital of Tripoli described coming under a hail of bullets on Friday as they tried to march toward Tripoli's central Green Square.
One man says gunmen on rooftops and in the streets opened fire with automatic weapons and even an anti-aircraft gun. He says in the first wave of gunfire, seven people near him were killed. Militiamen also opened fire on other marches in nearby districts on Friday, where witnesses reported four other deaths.
Sharkasi told Worldview the reports mirror his own from friends and family in Tripoli, who say that snipers on rooftops have been used to control crowds by firing on groups of more than two people.
Friday's marches were the first significant protests by Gadhafi opponents in the capital since early in the week, when militiamen launched a bloody crackdown. Later in the day, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared in the square, telling a crowd of his supporters to fight back against protesters and "defend the nation."
Diplomats have unanimously condemned Libya, ordered a probe into possible crimes against humanity and recommended the country's suspension from the U.N.'s top human rights body. The action Friday in a daylong emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council was matched by the dramatic decision of all the Libyan diplomats at the United Nations in Geneva to publicly defect to the opposition.
Sharkasi called upon the United States, the international community and the media to build on that momentum by taking an even stronger stand against Qaddafi and the violent crackdown.
"I know we've been witness to lots of riots in the Middle East in recent years and lots of images of people burning American flags and leaders in effigy," he noted. "But don't be afraid of these riots. These are people looking for freedom and democracy just like you and me."
Sharkasi appeared on WBEZ's Worldview with Mark Hanis, president of the Genocide Intervention Network and Save Darfur, who outlined what the international community can do to respond. (Read GIN's specific recommendations here.)