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.
Today marks Tunisia’s first election following the ousting of former President Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali. Visit these sites for information on who has gone to the polls, and what Tunisians are saying about voting in their first democratic election:
- Tunisia Election Live Blog, The Guardian
- Tunisia elections end on high optimistic note, Gulf News
- Tunisians flock to voting stations for first taste of democracy in 50 years, The Guardian
- Al-Nahda claims victory in Tunsia poll, Al-Jazeera
- Tunisians Vote in Free Elections, NPR
- Tunisian Elections – Live Updates, Tunisia Live
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.
Tunisian police are now banned from joining unions “given the danger that such activity represents for the security of the country”, Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi announced on Tuesday (September 6th).
“Many dangerous things happened in this country and that concerns all its citizens,” he said. Caid Essebsi announced a host of measures to restore security following recent clashes that left at least two people dead in the southwest and spurred a curfew on Sbeïtla.
The caretaker prime minister added the transitional government would “strictly” apply the state of emergency and prohibit “all demonstrations, all strikes and all meetings that could affect the security of the country”. He authorised the interim prime minister to “place under house arrest any person known for activities affecting internal security”.
The announcement came amid renewed riots in the Tunis Kasbah. Scores of angry security servicemen protested accusations that they killed protestors during the January 14th revolution. Twenty-three officers have been arrested on charges of killing demonstrators.
Police pressed for the dismissal of Interior Minister Habib Essid, Public Security Director Taoufik Dimassi and National Security Director Nabil Abid. The demonstrators also called for adopting a legal framework that would guarantee the protection of security agents. Several security centres were set alight last week, causing the union of internal security forces to call for a strike on Monday.
The speech caused resentment among police officers, who continued their protests.
“This was a very harsh speech that has greatly offended the entire security community,” Habib Jlassi, secretary-general of the special anti-terrorist brigade. “We didn’t expect that the number one official in government would describe us as monkeys. Therefore, we will continue our protests to demand the prime minister to apologise and to defend our rights and dignity.”
On the subject of political transition, Caid Essebsi reiterated the government’s obligation to safeguard the revolution.
“The revolution doesn’t mean chaos,” he said. “It is the government that is defending the revolution, while the rest are trying to take advantage of it, but we won’t allow them to do so.”
“The elections will take place on October 23,” the prime minister added. “Our aim is to ensure that a transparent and free poll takes place for the first time in this country.”
Caid Essebsi evoked the possibility of holding a referendum to specify the tasks and powers of the constituent assembly.
The idea must “be discussed in the cabinet, and the president of state is the one who can take such a decision”, he said. “However, I don’t exclude this step; it’s possible, but we have to consult with all parties.”
While some political parties, including the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), support the idea, others dismiss it as an attempt to circumvent the revolution.
The Constituent Assembly, which will be democratically elected, will be a sovereign entity and will appoint the executive power, said Communist Labour Party chief Hamma Hammami. Therefore, the idea of organising a referendum simultaneously with the October 23rd vote is unreasonable, he added.
Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor whose self-immolation as an act of protest against the Tunisian government served as a catalyst for change across the Arab world, is profiled in this piece from Al-Jazeera. Learn more about his hometown and family, and how the citizens of Sidi Bouzid brought President Ben Ali’s government to its knees.
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled a number of Arab rappers who are using their rhymes to call for change. To see some of these rappers, including DAM from Palestine, Soultana from Morocco, and El General from Tunisia, check out the videos below.