TRIPOLI // Dozens of militiamen surrounded the justice ministry in Tripoli yesterday, the third day of confrontation between the government and armed groups in the Libyan capital.
It was the latest in a series of shows of force by militias, most of which have ended without bloodshed but have interrupted the country's political transition and created a climate of intimidation and a weakened state.
Militias, some of which evolved out of the rebel groups that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, say they are rising up to force officials from the deposed dictator's regime from holding government posts, according to the state news agency Lana.
However, Libyan democracy activists say that they are bullying the government of Ali Zidan, the prime minister, who has vowed to restore the authority of the state, to prevent him from disbanding them.
Yesterday, militiamen sealed off the roads to the ministry with their vehicles armed with heavy machineguns, closed the building and turned away visitors.
On Sunday, about 200 armed men surrounded the foreign ministry and a day later, armed men stormed the interior ministry and a state-owned television station.
The unrest came as Libya's legislature, the General National Congress (GNC), debated a draft law for "political isolation" that will effectively filter out from political life those who held any post under Qaddafi.
An initial version of the law presented to the parliament would have banned an entire ruling class from politics, even though some had held only minor posts or left the government decades before the 2011 uprising against Qaddafi.
One figure who might be targeted by the law, the GNC head, Mohammed El Megarif, was ambassador to India before defecting to the opposition in 1980. A second is Mahmoud Jibril, a former aide to Qaddafi's son and the liberal-leaning head of the National Forces Alliance, the bloc with the biggest number of seats in parliament.
But the latest version of the draft law, posted on the official Facebook page of the GNC on Monday, included a new article that gives parliament powers to exempt some figures from the law, in an apparent attempt to prevent the removal of key figures.
That version is unlikely to satisfy the protesting militias and others who want a thorough purge of Libya's political class.