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.)
Besieged Bani Walid Residents Told to Flee, Al-Jazeera
“Libyan rebels battling the remnants of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in his remaining stronghold of Bani Walid have given residents there two days to leave before a threatened assault.
The warning came on Tuesday amid fears for the fate of civilians trapped in the last redoubts of Gaddafi, dislodged from power and now on the run after 42 years as leader of the oil-rich nation.
“I think only 10 per cent of the people are Gaddafi supporters. They are fanatics. And the rest are waiting to be liberated. We have given them two more days to leave the city,” Abumuslim Abdu, a fighter with the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.”
Syria Activists Call for Day of Anger over Medvedev Stance, The Daily Star (Beirut)
“The latest violence comes after pro-democracy activists called for a “day of anger” Tuesday in protest at Russia’s backing for President Bashar Assad, whose regime has waged a deadly six-month crackdown on protesters.
“Do not support the killers. Do not kill the Syrians with your position,” activists urged Russia in a posting on The Syrian Revolution 2011, a Facebook page that has been the engine for the revolt.
They wrote that a “day of anger” against Russia would be held Tuesday.”
Suleiman Leaves Court After Testifying in Mubarak Case, Al-Masry Al-Youm
“Suleiman is the most prominent official from Mubarak’s regime to be questioned by the prosecution since the trial began in August. According to some Egyptian news reports, Suleiman’s statements during investigations in April confirmed Mubarak’s involvement in the protester deaths.
The state-run newpaper Al-Akhbar reported on 26 May that Suleiman claimed during interrogations that Mubarak was completely aware of every shot fired at protesters in Tahrir Square. However, other news reports reported that Suleiman had not heard the former president ordering protesters be killed.”
Libya’s New Leader Calls for Unity and Moderation, The Guardian
“He said Islamic sharia law should be the main source of legislation but added: “We will not accept any extremist ideology, on the right or the left. We are a Muslim people, for a moderate Islam, and will stay on this road.”
Jalil also emphasised that women had played an important part in the revolution and would continue to do so. “Women will be ambassadors,” he said to cheers from women and girls in the crowd waving flags. “Women will be ministers.” Many of the women were dressed in the red, black and green of the revolution.”
The National (U.A.E.) reports:
The Turkish prime minister will press his country’s ambitions to become a leading political power in the Muslim world this week in trips to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, three arenas in a wave of popular revolts that have reshaped the region.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “Arab Spring tour” comes against a backdrop of escalating tensions with former friend Israel over the killing of nine Turkish activists last year – a standoff that has strengthened support for Ankara in large parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
Arab countries, in the throes of popular uprisings, have watched the economic growth and influence of Turkey’s secular democracy with a mixture of fascination and trepidation.
Under Mr Erdogan’s AKP party, rooted in political Islam, Turkey has boosted political and commercial ties with a region the country ruled under the Ottoman Empire.
Last week, Mr Erdogan threatened to back up his growing diplomatic clout with military action by saying he would dispatch the navy to protect flotillas against Israeli patrols – an announcement analysts said could also alarm Arab powers.
The Arab revolts have forced Turkey to rethink its foreign policy, particularly in Syria, where former the country’s former ally, President Bashar Al Assad, has defied Ankara’s calls to end a bloody crackdown on protesters, and in Libya, where Turkey had billion-dollar investments before Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was forced out of power.
Besides seeking closer economic and military ties with the new rulers of regional heavyweight Egypt and oil-rich Libya, analysts say Erdogan will use his trip, which begins today in Egypt, to cast himself as the champion of the Muslim world.
Mr Erdogan is expected to give a speech today at Cairo University, where his aides say he will set out Turkey’s vision for the region.
“With the resounding victory of the elections in June, Mr Erdogan has complete control at home and now he wants to assert himself as the leader in the Muslim world and the Middle East,” said Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based security analyst.
Mr Erdogan’s visit to Egypt, the first by a Turkish leader in 15 years, will be closely watched by Israel and by the United States, which has seen with alarm the deterioration of ties between Turkey and Israel and between Israel and Egypt.
Israel’s peace deal with Cairo has come under increasing pressure since the fall of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Israel would regard with suspicion signs of closer alliance between Egypt and Turkey at a time Ankara has taken a more confrontational attitude towards Israel.
Mr Erdogan will meet the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the prime minister, Essam Sharaf, and representatives of the pro-democracy movement that ousted Mr Mubarak.
Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies said: “Turkey is using the Arab-Israeli conflict and the recent rising tension in the Arab region against Israel to publicise itself.
“All its moves against Israel are only meant to promote itself as a political power in the Arab region and spread its influence on the new generation of the Arab youth who are longing for change and power.”
Ankara has already downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel and halted defence trade following Israel’s confirmation last week that it would not apologise for the 2010 assault on a Turkish boat challenging its Gaza blockade in which nine Turkish activists were killed.
But Ankara is likely to stop short of doing anything to alienate Washington, said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at Chatham House.
“At the end of the day, Turkey sided with Washington on its key policies in the region – hosting Nato’s radar system, condemning Assad and distancing itself from Iran,” Mr Hakura said. “Americans can live with Turkey’s emotional outbursts unless, of course, they translate into a naval confrontation but I don’t think that will happen.”
Mr Erdogan would be the first head of government to visit Libya since rebels fighting to end Col Qaddafi’s 42-year-old rule entered Tripoli.
Turkey, hesitant at first to dump its one-time friend Col Qaddafi and to back Nato operations, is taking a lead role in efforts to rebuild Libya, eyeing billion-dollar deals.
Syrians appeal for international protection, Al-Jazeera
“Syrians have taken to the streets for another Friday of protests, calling for international help to stop the security crackdown by Bashar al-Assad’s government. Large protests called “Friday for International Protection” were reported in cities including Qamishli in the northeast, Homs and Hama in the centre of the country, and Deir al-Zor in the east.
Activists and rights group say at least 2,200 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the uprising began in mid-March. Al Jazeera’s Omar al Saleh, reporting from Ramtha on the Jordan-Syria border, said the calls vary from the execution of Assad to international protection.”
“Around 30,000 protesters gathered in Tahrir Square Friday to protest the ruling military council’s performance and their numbers continued to rise into the late afternoon for the demonstration dubbed “Correcting the Path of the Revolution.” Some of those present since midday prayers were discouraged that turnout was lower than organizers had hoped for, however the crowd was steadily swelling and was expected to reach 50,000 before the demonstration’s scheduled 6 pm end time.
“It is the first Friday after Ramadan, and summertime. I believe that the number will increase in the coming demonstrations,” said political activist and blogger Ahmed Gharbeia.
Several marches feeding into Tahrir from around Cairo have been adding a steady stream of protesters. One group came from the Israeli Embassy in Dokki, while the April 6 Youth Movement also came from Mohandiseen with at least 500 supporters. Islamist groups were, as expected, not present in the square. April 6, secular revolutionary groups, as well as the football fans known as Ahly and Zamalek “Ultras” led most of the chants.”
Russia seeks Syrian detente, The Daily Star (Beirut)
“Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that some Syrians protesting against Bashar Assad’s regime are “terrorists” and that the world should urge both sides to refrain from violence, as opposition groups made their first direct calls for foreign intervention in the country to halt the violence.
In an interview with the France-based news channel Euronews, Medvedev admitted the Syrian authorities had been guilty of using “disproportionate force” against protesters, but called the country a “friend” of Russia.
“It’s true that we recognize that there are problems in Syria. We’re aware of the disproportionate use of force, and of a large number of victims, and it’s something we disapprove of,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the network.”
“An excavation of mass graves began on Friday in search of the 1,200 victims of a Libyan prison massacre, in an attempt to close the most infamous chapter of Muammar Gaddafi‘s bloody four-decade rule.
Diggers found multiple bodies in a single grave – one of 38 graves at a cemetery in Tripoli. It is believed the remains had been moved there from the notorious Abu Salim jail, scene of the killing of inmates in 1996.
More than 1,000 bodies are still thought to be within the grounds of the prison. Excavations there have been delayed as officials await the arrival of experts and equipment for DNA testing. Digging is expected to begin in a week.”
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.