12 Feb 2012

Saif Gaddafi to be moved to Tripoli, then tried

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son and one-time heir apparent of toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, will move to a prison in Tripoli within weeks, and face trial in Libya.

Saif Gaddafi to be transferred to Tripoli and tried in Libya (Image: Reuters)

The chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) said the construction of a prison in central Tripoli, begun under the late Gaddafi, was almost ready for his son.

Saif al-Islam, who remains at a secret location in the north west town of Zintan, will be moved there in less than two months.

Three months after capturing Siaf al-Islam in Libya’s Sahara desert dressed as a Bedouin tribesman, Zintan commanders say they have kept him in a remote location – rather than hand him over to the NTC – to spare him the fate of his father.

The elder Gaddafi was killed by his captors shortly after being seized in October, his decomposing body put on public display in a Misrata meat locker before given an inglorious secret burial in the Libyan desert.

Read more: Capturing Saif - a chance for redemption

In an interview with Reuters, the NTC’s chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil said: “At this moment he is being interrogated and his trial will begin as soon as the prison facility is ready. I can’t give an exact timeframe in terms of weeks or months for this but it will not be more than two months.”

Saif al-Islam, a fluent English speaker educated at the London School of Economics, was seen as a the Western-friendly acceptable face of Libya before transforming from liberal reformer to a key figure in his father’s fight against rebels seeking his overthrow.

He now faces trial in Tripoli on charges of murder and rape and could face the death penalty if convicted. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has also indicted him for crimes against humanity but Libya says he will be tried in his home country.

Read more: Saif Gaddafi's fear of the mob exposed in secret recording

“By God’s will, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will receive a fair trial and also all those who are accused in this regard,” Abdul Jalil said.

A transitional government appointed in November is leading the country to elections in June but is struggling to restore services and impose order on a myriad of armed groups that toppled Gaddafi after 42 years in power. And his offspring continue to cast a shadow over the oil-rich North African state.

Abdul Jalil said Niger had confiscated all communication devices belonging to Saif al-Islam’s brother Saadi, after he warned of a “coming uprising” in Libya by those opposed to the authorities now in power in Tripoli.

Saadi, who fled south to Niger in September, told Al-Arabiya television by telephone on Friday that he was in regular contact with people in Libya unhappy with the authorities put in place after the ousting and killing of his father.

That prompted Libya to urge Niger on Saturday to extradite Saadi, saying his comments threatened bilateral ties. But Niger said it could not hand over Saadi because he would face execution in Libya.