The war crimes trial of two sons of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gadafy begins amid tight security in Tripoli today, in a case causing sensation at home and controversy among rights groups.
Saif al-Islam Gadafy (41) and his brother Saadi (40) are accused of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and bombardment of civilians during Libya’s eight-month civil war in 2011.
Appearing with them are Gadafy’s former spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, two former prime ministers and 34 senior officials representing much of the dictatorship’s surviving elite.
Security fears have seen the trial moved to the capital’s maximum security al-Hadba prison, which has been ringed with armoured cars, barbed wire and machine-gun nests.
In a sign of the power of the militias, units holding Saif al-Islam in the mountain town of Zintan have refused to hand him over to the authorities. Instead, he will stand trial over a video link.
The defendants are accused of masterminding massacres in the early days of the revolution and of rounding up, torturing and killing hundreds of opponents. They are also accused of plundering state coffers to fund extravagant lifestyles abroad.
Documents filed by Libya with the International Criminal Court in The Hague show an extensive charge sheet, more than 200 witnesses and 40,000 pages of evidence.
Rights groups say violence against judges and lawyers, which have seen the rule of law suspended across much of the country, leave a question mark over the trial.
The trial is also controversial because the International Criminal Court, which has charged Saif al-Islam and Senussi, has yet to agree to Libyan requests to try both at home.
Libya insists the trial will be fair and transparent.
Libya’s interim prime minister Abdullah al- Thinni has handed his resignation to parliament after less than two weeks in the post, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.
In a letter to the General National Congress and published on the government website, Mr Thinni said he and his family had been victim of a "cowardly attack" and he could not "accept to see any violence because of my position". – ( Guardian service)