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Saif-al-Islam Gadhafi to be tried in Libya in September

By Esam Mohamed Associated Press | Last updated: Sep 9, 2013 - 5:37:10 PM

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Saif al-Islam is seen after his capture in the custody of Libyan fighters in Zintan, Libya. Photo: AP World Wide Photo
TRIPOLI, Libya - Late Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s son and his spy chief were charged on August 27 with murder in relation to the country’s 2011 civil war and are set to stand trial, said Libya’s general prosecutor.

Abdel-Qader Radwan told reporters that the trial will start Sept. 19 on alleged crimes committed during  Col. Gadhafi’s 42-year rule and during the eight-month-long civil war that deposed him.

The defendants are former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi and Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the heir apparent and only son of the former leader who is in custody. A total of 28 former cabinet members will face trial that day on various charges ranging from murder, forming armed groups in violation of the law, inciting rape and kidnappings.

Mr. Radwan said Libyan authorities have issued more than 280 arrest warrants for those wanted on similar charges.

Radwan’s aide, al-Seddik al-Sur, said spy chief al-Senoussi has confessed to collaborating on producing car bombs in the city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising.

He added that “defendants were not subject to any form of pressure to extract confessions.”

The International Criminal Court charged Saif al-Islam Gadhafi with murder and persecution of civilians during the early days of the uprising. If convicted in that court, he would have faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, because it does not have the death penalty. This summer, the international court judges had ruled that Libya cannot give Saif al-Islam a fair trial and asked authorities to hand him over to The Hague.

Nonetheless, Col. Gadhafi’s son remains held by a militia group that captured him in the Western mountain town of Zintan as he was fleeing to neighboring Niger after rebel forces took Libya’s capital.

He is also being tried on separate charges of harming state security, attempting to escape prison and insulting Libya’s new flag. The charges are linked to his 2012 meeting with an international court delegation accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him in his cell. Zintan rebels held the four-member team but released them after the court apologized and pledged to investigate the incident.

According to filings by defense lawyers at the court, Saif al-Islam said he wants to be tried for alleged war crimes in the Netherlands, claiming that a Libyan trial would be tantamount to murder.

The rest of Saif al-Islam’s family, including his mother, sister, two brothers and others, were granted asylum in Oman in 2012, moving there from Algeria, where they found refuge during the civil war.

The rule of law is still weak in Libya after decades of rule by Col. Gadhafi. Courts are still paralyzed and security remains tenuous as unruly militias proliferate.

The state, however, relies heavily on militias to serve as security forces since the police and military remain a shambles. Successive governments have been too weak to either secure Saif al-Islam’s imprisonment in the capital, Tripoli, or put pressure on militia groups to hand him over to the government.