A Tunisian appeals court on Tuesday approved the extradition of Libya’s former prime minister, making him the first escaped member of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s felled government to be ordered returned home into Libyan custody since the revolution that officially ended last month.
The former prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, was arrested by the Tunisian border police on Sept. 22 and sentenced to six months in a Tunisian prison for entering the country illegally. The sentence was overturned, but the Tunisian authorities held him pending the outcome of an extradition request by Libya’s post-Qaddafi government.
Despite a plea for a postponement by Mr. Mahmoudi’s defense lawyers, the appeals court ordered the extradition, according to TAP, the official Tunisia news agency.
It did not specify precisely when Mr. Mahmoudi would be returned to Libya.
The extradition order came despite concerns by rights groups and foreign governments, including those that aided the former rebels who toppled Colonel Qaddafi, about extrajudicial killings and mistreatment of Qaddafi loyalists by vindictive militia members who had battled them in the eight-month revolution.
Those concerns intensified when Colonel Qaddafi, one of his sons and a former intelligence minister were killed while in the custody of militias that besieged the former leader’s last redoubt of resistance, in his hometown, Surt, on Oct. 20.
Amnesty International had sent a letter to the Tunisian government urging it not to extradite Mr. Mahmoudi. James Lynch, the group’s spokesman for North Africa, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying it feared that Mr. Mahmoudi would “face real risks, serious human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial execution and unfair trial.”
The Transitional National Council, the interim government in Libya, has promised that any former members of Colonel Qaddafi’s government accused of wrongdoing would be tried fairly. The council has also pledged to prosecute the killers of Colonel Qaddafi, although few Libyans expect that they will be arrested or punished.
There has been no word for more than a week on the whereabouts of Colonel Qaddafi’s remaining son-at-large, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, who is believed to be hiding with sympathetic Tuareg tribesmen in Mali or Niger.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for Mr. Qaddafi over suspected abuses of civilians committed during the Libyan revolution, said on Oct. 28 that he had been in indirect contact with Mr. Qaddafi about a possible surrender.
On October 20, 2011, former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was killed in the city of Sirte by rebel forces. To view a variety of news stories related to his death, visit the links below from media outlets around the world:
- An Erratic Leader, Brutal and Defiant to the End, The New York Times
- Violent End to an Era as Gaddafi Dies in Libya, The New York Times
- Gaddafi is gone – now Libya must undo his legacy, The Guardian
- Muammar Gaddafi died from gunshot wound, says postmortem doctor, The Guardian
- Libya’s NTC orders probe into Gaddafi killing, Al-Jazeera
- In Pictures: A look back at Gaddafi’s reign, Al-Jazeera
- Libyans declare their liberation from 42 years of Gaddafi rule, The National (U.A.E.)
- NATO and UN to wind down military intervention in Libya, The National (U.A.E.)
FOX News reports:
Tunisian government officials say the country has barred a Libyan general and ally of Muammar Qaddafi from leaving the country.
The two officials said that al-Khoweildi al-Hamidi was trying to take a plane out of Tunisia on Wednesday when he was detained and questioned by Tunisian police.
The officials said police released al-Hamidi on Thursday but kept his passport. He will appear Tuesday in court.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
Qaddafi’s wife and three of his children fled to Algeria last week, and other Qaddafi allies went to Niger, as Libya’s rebels solidify their control and are hunting Qaddafi himself.
Al-Hamidi is a longtime regime insider who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Qaddafi to power.
National Public Radio has compiled a series of special reports on Libya. Use this link to access reports from NPR’s broadcasts and website for the latest news from Libya. Current features include an interview with journalist Richard Engel on reporting from war zones and samples of programs such as All Things Considered, as well as archived material dating back to March 22, 2011.
Interpol has issued a red notice – its highest arrest alert – for Muammar Gaddafi as the hunt for the former Libyan leader intensifies.
The France-based international police organisation said it had issued the notice in collaboration with Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) where Gaddafi is accused of crimes against humanity.
Notices were also issued for Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and Abdullah Senussi, his former director of military intelligence, who have also been indicted by the ICC.
“The Red Notices have been circulated to all of Interpol’s 188 members and include essential identifying and judicial information,” the organisation said.
Interpol said the issue of the notices was also the first step towards its formally recognising Libya’s National Transitional Council [NTC] as the country’s formal government.
“Interpol will co-operate with and assist the ICC and Libyan authorities represented by the Interim Transitional National Council of Libya to apprehend Muammar Gaddafi,” Ronald Nobel, Interpol’s secretary-general, said.
Interpol’s move followed a request for the red notice from Moreno-Ocampo. It means that the three men are now considered among the world’s most wanted fugitives.
“Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo’s request for Interpol red notices will significantly restrict the ability of all three men to cross international borders and is a powerful tool to help in their location and arrest,” Noble said.
Moreno-Ocampo said the issuing of the alert meant that Gaddafi’s arrest was a “matter of time” and ensured that the warrant for his arrest was in the hands of law enforcement agencies around the world.
Gaddafi officials enter Niger
Meanwhile, a group of 14 Gaddafi officials, including General Ali Kana, a Tuareg who was one of Gaddafi’s close aides, have crossed into Niger’s northern city of Agadez, according to security sources quoted by Reuters.
Two sources said the group included four top officials, amongst them two generals. The identity of the other general has not been confirmed.
“The group arrived in four four-wheel-drive vehicles on Thursday afternoon,” one of the sources said, adding that they were accompanied by Nigerien security forces.
Niger’s government has not commented on the reports.
The arrival of the group follows that of Mansour Dhao, the head of Gaddafi’s security brigades, who crossed into Niger in a convoy on Monday.
Niger has said it had allowed the Libyans into its territory on humanitarian grounds, but has come under pressure from the international community to hand over former Gaddafi officials suspected of human rights abuses.
‘Million march’ in Tripoli
Amid the massing of Libyan fighters around the last remaining strongholds of Gaddafi, upto a million people are reportedly holding march in the capital, Tripoli.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Tripoli, said: “Today is the second Friday prayer at martyr square since the fall of Tripoli, and the Imam will offer sermon about new Libya and the new found freedom in country.”
“He will reiterate message of Mahmoud Jibril that Libyans have to show unity,” he said.
“One of the biggest rally is being organised today with upto one million people expected to march in Tripoli. Thousands of people have swarmed the martyr square to celebrate the new era.”
Gaddafi’s loyalists in the town of Bani Walid and further east in the toppled leader’s hometown of Sirte have been given until Saturday to surrender.
Five NTC fighters were killed on Thursday as they tried to move in the few small towns where Gaddafi supporters are hold up.
Fighters inched forward to about 5km outside Bani Walid late on Thursday, with NATO planes monitoring the advance from the sky, Reuters reported.
Residents fleeing Bani Walid, a desert town 150km south of Tripoli, said Gaddafi loyalists were intimidating people and supplies were low.
The Al Jazeera correspondent said: “On the record, the officials here say ‘we are willing to extend deadline to show we are here to offer forgiveness and mercy and we are not after revenge’.”
“However, off the record, everybody is concerned about the tribal affiliations. They are trying to sort out tribal problems particularly in Bani Walid and Sirte, and offer a peaceful resolution as a way out of the problems,” he said.
“Otherwise we are having very strong military commanders here, who are saying we will wait for today and if people of Bani Walid do not surrender we will just go ahead.”
Jibril, the man who is now effectively Libya’s prime minister, told reporters on Thursday that the war for Libya was not yet over.
“The greater challenge is still there. The first challenge is to achieve a sort of victory over ourselves. The second challenge is to be able to be tolerant and to forgive and to go forward towards the future,” said Jibri, speaking in Tripoli for the first time since NTC forces seized the capital.
BBC News reports:
Libya’s fugitive leader Muammar Gaddafi has dismissed as lies and psychological warfare the speculation that he has fled south to neighbouring Niger.
He was speaking by phone to a pro-Gaddafi TV channel in Syria, apparently from inside Libya. Earlier, Niger said it was considering what to do if he sought refuge there. Officials say the central bank sold 29 tonnes of gold, netting 1.7bn Libyan dinars ($1.4bn; £875m), while it was still under Col Gaddafi’s control. The reserves were sold to local merchants in April or May, and the money used to cover salaries, said officials from the interim authorities, the National Transitional Council (NTC). The sales represented about 20% of Libya’s gold reserves, interim bank governor Qassim Azzuz told reporters in the capital Tripoli.
None of the bank’s assets were “missing or were stolen” during the six-month uprising which overthrew Col Gaddafi, Mr Azzuz said, but his figures did not include assets held privately by the Gaddafi family. The NTC says eyewitnesses in Niger reported seeing some gold and money in armed convoys which crossed the Libyan border a few days ago. “If that happened, we want that money back,” NTC official Fathi Badja said, as quoted by the AFP news agency.
Niger would decide later whether to accept Col Gaddafi or hand him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the country’s foreign minister told the BBC. There has been speculation that Col Gaddafi may go to Niger after groups of loyalists fled there in recent days. Libya’s transitional authorities have asked Niger not to take him in. Niger recognises the ICC, which is seeking the arrest of Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his former intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi. Col Gaddafi told the Al-Rai channel, which is based in the Syrian capital Damascus, that there was nothing unusual about convoys going to Niger.
However, in a BBC interview on Wednesday, Niger’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum admitted that officials from his government were among those people who had recently crossed into Niger in at least three convoys, but he said that neither Col Gaddafi nor any of his sons were currently in his country. Regarding the recent Libyan refugees, Mr Bazoum said: “We told them that we can accept them to stay for humanitarian reasons, but they have to respect what the international law allows them to do or not allow them to do.” The foreign minister also stressed that Niger simply had “no means to close the border” with Libya, describing it as “too big”.
Niger has belatedly recognised Libya’s interim authorities, the NTC, the BBC’s Mark Doyle in Niamey says. But the government in the capital Niamey clearly feels it cannot just abandon Col Gaddafi completely, a man with whom it has had a long relationship, our correspondent adds.
Border ‘too big’
Officials in Niger have said Col Gaddafi’s security chief, Mansour Daw, was among those who entered the country in the convoys over the weekend or on Monday. Mr Bazoum added that those who had arrived from Libya – of whom there were fewer than 20 – were free to stay in Niamey, or to continue to Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso – which borders Niger to the south-west – has denied reports that it had offered to welcome Col Gaddafi.
Col Gaddafi’s wife, two of his sons and his daughter fled to Algeria last week. His own whereabouts remain the subject of speculation – though the NTC say they believe he is still in Libya. Senior Western officials say they have no information about where Col Gaddafi may be, but have no indication he has left the country. Stockpiles of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, grenades and rockets have been found in unguarded warehouses around Tripoli. Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the weapons could fall into the wrong hands – either Gaddafi loyalists or Islamist militants.
“There are all these unguarded munitions facilities, and anyone can go in with a pickup or an 18-wheeler and take whatever they want,” said Peter Bouckaert from HRW, who has recorded multiple weapons caches around the Libyan capital. Mr Bouckaert said he found 100,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines at one unguarded site. Elsewhere, he found weapons caches hidden under fruit trees, the Associated Press reported.
The NTC has been trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution to stand-offs in a handful of Libyan towns or cities still controlled by Gaddafi loyalists. These include Bani Walid, Jufra, Sabha and Col Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte. The NTC has positioned forces outside Bani Walid, and says talks will continue there until a deadline on Saturday. But in his phone message, Col Gaddafi said he would still be able to defeat his opponents. “The youths are now ready to escalate the resistance against the ‘rats’ [rebels] in Tripoli and to finish off the mercenaries,” he said.