Libya vows to treat Gadafy’s son fairly
Saadi Gadafy extradited to Tripoli to stand trial for role in suppressing protests
Libyan government says Saadi Gadafy will receive “just and fair” treatment following his extradition to Libya from Niger. Photograph: Reuters
The Libyan government has pledged that Saadi Gadafy, the third son of Col Muammar Gadafy, will receive “just and fair” treatment following his extradition from Niger to face accusations related to the role he played in suppressing anti-regime protests in 2011 and claims he continued to foment unrest in Libya while in exile.
Celebratory gunfire rang out in several Tripoli neighbourhoods yesterday as news spread that Niger had handed over Saadi Gadafy after several years of diplomatic back and forth. A stream of tekbirs – or exultations – echoed from the loudspeakers of the imposing mosque on the city’s landmark Algeria Square.
The Facebook page of a government-backed militia featured what it said were photographs of Saadi Gadafy (40), wearing a blue prison uniform. “The first pictures of the criminal,” declared the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room militia on the page. Other images of the man once known for his playboy lifestyle appeared to show him having his head shaved while in the custody of the Libyan judicial police.
Saadi, one of Gadafy’s seven sons, slipped across the border to Niger within weeks of his father fleeing Tripoli after it fell to rebel forces in August 2011. According to Libyan officials, while under house arrest there he sought to reconnect with former regime figures and others opposed to Gadafy’s ousting. In a televised phone call in February 2012, Saadi vowed that Libya would witness a counter-revolution and claimed he was in regular contact with a network of supporters inside the country.
Despite Interpol issuing a “red notice” for his arrest in 2012, Niger rejected Tripoli’s entreaties to hand him over, with its justice minister arguing that Saadi Gadafy was “certain to face the death penalty” if returned to Libya. Niger’s calculus appeared to change last month, possibly due to claims that he and former regime official Abdullah Mansour were linked to clashes in southern Libya. The authorities in Niger agreed to extradite Mr Mansour three weeks ago, raising speculation that Saadi would soon follow.
Unlike his brother, Saif al-Islam, Saadi is not wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes. Saif al-Islam is currently being held by a militia in the western Libyan mountain town of Zintan. It has refused to turn him over to either the central government in Tripoli or to the ICC.
Libyans accuse Saadi of ordering security forces to open fire on unarmed protesters in Benghazi in the first days of the 2011 uprising. He was sent to the city by his father in an effort to quell anti-regime demonstrations there. He may also face charges related to allegations of corruption and armed intimidation during his term as head of the Libyan football federation.
In a statement, the Libyan government said it was keen that Gadafy “receive a just and a fair treatment that will reflect international standards”. But human rights organisations have long decried the country’s feeble justice system as overburdened and cowed by powerful militias that emerged during the 2011 uprising.
In a report last month, Human Rights Watch said Saif al-Islam Gadafy and several other detained former officials were deprived of basic due process rights.
Saadi, whose children attended the International School of the Martyrs, a Tripoli educational institution where the Irish Leaving Certificate curriculum is taught, is the first member of the Gadafy family to be extradited to Libya since 2011. Other immediate family, including his sister Aisha and brother Hannibal, are believed to be in Oman. A number of extended family members and former regime officials are understood to be living in Egypt and Tunisia.