TRIPOLI - The trial of Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam may be delayed to include any relevant testimony obtained via interrogation from the country's former spy chief who was arrested on Wednesday, a government official said on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Government officials said in August that Saif al-Islam’s
trial on war crimes charges – the most high-profile prosecution
of a figure from his late father’s entourage to date – was due
to begin in September.
But the arrest on Wednesday of Abdullah Senussi, the former
spy chief known as “Gaddafi’s black box”, appears to have pushed
that date back, postponing a trial that a lawyer from the
International Criminal Court (ICC) has already said is unlikely
to be fair.
Senussi was handed over to Libya by Mauritanian authorities
on Wednesday after being captured in the West African state in
March, triggering a tug of war between Libya, France and the ICC
for his extradition.
“We expect the trial of Saif al-Islam to be delayed a little
because Abdullah Senussi will be able to provide new information
that can be used in Saif’s trial,” Taha Ba’ara, a spokesman for
the prosecutor general’s office, told Reuters on Thursday.
Libya’s new rulers, who aim to draw up a democratic
constitution, are keen to try Gaddafi’s family members and
loyalists at home to show the country’s citizens that those who
helped Gaddafi stay in power for 42 years are being punished.
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS
Saif al-Islam will have to respond to charges which include
financial corruption, murder and rape, according to a statement
from Justice Minister Ali Ashour in April.
The charges, which he denies, relate to crimes he allegedly
committed during the NATO-backed revolt that toppled his father
last year prompting a fearful Senussi to flee.
Ba’ara said a government delegation including the Libyan
army’s chief-of-staff, the finance minister, and a member of the
prosecutor general’s office had travelled to Nouakchott, the
capital of Mauritania, to escort Senussi back home.
Recognisable from his trademark tightly curled hair, a
heavily bearded Senussi was shown in a local press photograph
getting out of a helicopter in Libya.
Ba’ara said that Senussi’s interrogation had begun on his
arrival at a Tripoli prison after he had undergone medical
“We will guarantee all his rights. If he asks for a lawyer
then we don’t mind providing him with one during interrogation,
but if he doesn’t ask for one then we cannot force him to take
one,” Ba’ara said.
Human rights activists worry that a weak central government
and a relative lack of rule of law mean that legal proceedings –
both for Senussi and for Saif al-Islam – will not meet
On Wednesday, rights groups called on Libya’s government to
hand over Senussi to the ICC where an arrest warrant for him
remains in force.
In July, a war crimes lawyer who was detained in Libya for
three weeks on spying allegations said her experience had shown
it was impossible for Saif al-Islam to get a fair trial in his