TRIPOLI: Libya’s Supreme Court scrapped a new law that criminalised the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or his supporters yesterday after opponents argued it violated freedom of expression.

A lawyer who appealed against the measure said the ruling was an important step in ensuring democratic freedoms weeks ahead of the country’s first free elections since last year’s war ended Gaddafi’s 42-year autocratic rule.

The Supreme Court had agreed to review the constitutionality of Law 37, which was passed by the ruling National Transitional Council last month.

The law sparked outrage among civil groups and legal experts. It prescribed prison sentences for the glorification of Gaddafi as well as for publishing news “harming the February 17 revolution”.

“In the name of the people, the court has decided to accept the appeal of Law 37 of 2012 as it is unconstitutional,” Judge Kamal Bashir Dahan said in a brief hearing.

“The ruling of this court on rendering Law 37 constitutionally invalid does not render invalid other criminal articles stipulated in other laws incriminating those who undermine the religion and defame the public institutions.”

Appealing lawyer Salah Al-Merghani welcomed the decision, which came before the country heads to the ballot box on July 7 to elect a national assembly, paving the way for a new constitution.

“This law is unconstitutional as it prevents the freedom of speech. We are nearing elections and a basic step is to ensure there is freedom of speech,” he said. – Reuters