Arrest of Prominent Human-Rights Lawyer Sets Off Anti-Government Protests in Libya

The anti-government protest wave unleashed in Tunisia and Egypt in the past few weeks swept into Libya, where demonstrators battled security forces in a rare public outpouring of anger at longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, according to the organization Human Rights Watch.

The protests against the eccentric Gadhafi, the Arab world's longest-ruling autocrat, erupted late Tuesday in Bengazi, Libya's second-largest city, after the arrest of a prominent human rights lawyer, and raged past dawn Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said.

Libya—home to the longest-serving member of the rapidly shrinking club of North African dictators—saw clashes between police and hundreds of protesters overnight after the arrest of a human rights activist in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Financial Times reports. Organizers have put out a call on the Internet for a nationwide day of protests tomorrow. Libyan state media, meanwhile, reports that rallies in support of leader Moammar Gadhafi are being held across Libya.