Calls for Libyan militia to release Hague court lawyer
THE International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague was joined by the Australian government last night in demanding the release of an ICC lawyer detained by Libyan militia after a meeting with Saif al-Islam – son of the late Col Muammar Gadafy – and accused of spying.
Melinda Taylor, an Australian national, was one of a four-member ICC team who arrived last Thursday in the small mountain town of Zintan, 135km south-west of Tripoli, for a legal consultation with al-Islam, who was captured last November and faces trial for crimes against humanity.
Although there are a number of versions of what took place, Ahmed Jehani, Libya’s envoy to the ICC, said last night that Ms Taylor had been arrested for allegedly exchanging papers with Mr al-Islam, while her Lebanese interpreter, Helen Assaf, had been held as “an accomplice”. He said the two other members of the ICC team, a Russian and a Spaniard, had stayed behind to provide moral support for their colleagues.
Mr Jehani said the letter allegedly handed to al-Islam had come from his former right-hand man, Mohammed Ismail, who is still on the run, and appeared to have been written in some form of code.
He claimed that blank documents signed by al-Islam had also been found – along with a pen containing a camera and a watch containing a recorder.
Later, Alajmi Ali Ahmed al- Atiri, head of the local militia which has refused to hand al-Islam over for trial in The Hague and which functions largely independently of the authorities in Tripoli, produced what he said were the seized documents. He claimed the purpose of the blank signed pages had been to produce a letter in which al-Islam would claim the Libyan legal system was inadequate – and would ask to be transferred to the Netherlands.
In a statement yesterday, the president of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, said: “We are very concerned about the safety of our staff in the absence of any contact with them.” Stressing that the four had diplomatic immunity while on an ICC mission, he added: “I call on the Libyan authorities to take all measures necessary to secure their safety and to liberate them.”