By Brian Rohan
BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan Islamists who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi urged the country's new leaders Saturday to appeal to Baghdad to halt the execution of Libyans jailed in Iraq.
In a demonstration that drew hundreds of people -- some armed -- to the headquarters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya's second city of Benghazi, protesters urged the head of the council to intervene in support of some 30 Libyans they say were arrested during the Iraqi insurgency.
"Mustafa Abdel Jalil should tell the Iraqis to immediately stop the scheduled executions, and after this, individual cases should be examined," said Nasr al-Zway, a 40-year-old who said his brother Adel is imprisoned in Iraq.
The protest, which began late Friday after Libyans in Iraq called their families to say two executions would take place Saturday, included former fighters wearing long beards and the families of condemned men, with many holding signs invoking Muslim scripture.
Others carried banners saying "Stop the execution of our brothers in Iraq." One family carried a picture of their son, who went missing in Iraq in 2004, against the backdrop of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Libyans from across the country put aside their complex tribal and cultural divisions to oust Gaddafi during eight months of fighting.
But many are now concerned his killing could re-ignite rivalries and mar the path to democracy. Differences between Islamists and secularists add to the regional enmities.
Salem al-Khodary, an engineering student who manned a heavy machine gun during fighting earlier this month, said a variety of Muslims were taking part in the Benghazi protests, which concerned all Libyans and were not based purely on religion.
"Nobody here knows about the trials or how these people were condemned, so it is a question of transparency," he said, adding he felt protesters dressed in fatigues were only armed in a sign of pride at their victory over Gaddafi.
The bearded 22-year-old who described himself as a devout Muslim and also a fan of American actor Johnny Depp and rock band Linkin Park, said demonstrations were a part of the new Libya and he did not expect political conflict to escalate into violence.
"The war is over -- we know the difference between fighting with weapons and acting through politics, with demonstrations and words," he said.
(Editing by Sophie Hares)