Libyan ex-PM's extradition illegal, says Marzouki


TUNISIA’S PRESIDENT, Moncef Marzouki, has said his own government’s extradition of Libya’s former prime minister was illegal.

Mr Marzouki said he was not consulted over the extradition of Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, whom Libya has accused of crimes committed during Muammar Gadafy’s rule.

Tunisia’s executive, however, insisted the extradition last weekend – which had been opposed by human rights groups – was legal, claiming the president’s permission was not needed.

It said the decision was made after a delegation visited Tripoli, which enjoys close relations with Tunis, and found Libya’s justice system was competent enough to hold a fair trial.

Mr Mahmoudi fled Libya in August after rebel forces stormed Tripoli, and has been held in Tunisia accused of illegally entering the country.

For Libya, there is immense satisfaction at having such a pivotal figure in custody. Mr Mahmoudi (70) spent two decades rising through the ministerial ranks of Gadafy’s Libya.

As the former chairman of both the high council for oil and gas and the Libyan Investment Authority, which owns £100 billion in overseas assets, he can point investigators towards cash Gadafy had moved abroad. Peeling back the layers of Gadafy’s Libya will be a delicate process, with many current government officials having served in prominent positions under the former regime.

Tripoli hopes Tunisia’s decision to hand over Mr Mahmoudi will encourage other states to do likewise with other figures prominent under Gadafy.

These, including Gadafy’s sons, Mohammed and Saadi, who fled to Algeria and Niger respectively, and who are regarded in Tripoli as posing a potential threat to the stability of the country in the run-up to elections on July 7th.

Mr Mahmoudi’s arrival also represents a challenge for Libya’s government, which is under pressure from human rights groups over the lack of a functioning justice system.

The UN and Nato have already condemned the detention by militia of the Australian international criminal court lawyer Melinda Taylor in the mountain town of Zintan.

Canberra acknowledged at the weekend there might be no early release for Ms Taylor, who is accused by Libya of trying to pass secret documents to Saif al-Islam Gadafy, also held in Zintan, during an official meeting with him earlier this month. – (Guardian service)