Sunday, November 20, 2011
Libyan Revolutionary Trials
Libya says Gadhafi son to be tried at home
ZINTAN, Libya (AP) – Libya's new leaders said Sunday they will try Moammar Gadhafi's son at home and not hand him over to the International Criminal Court where he's charged with crimes against humanity. The government also announced the capture of the toppled regime's intelligence minister, who is also wanted by the court.
In one of several emerging complications, however, the former rebel faction that captured Seif al-Islam Gadhafi a day earlier is refusing to deliver him to national authorities in Tripoli, raising concern over whether he will get a proper trial and demonstrating the interim leaders' weak hold over their fractured nation.
In the capital, Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said ex-Intelligence Minister Abdullah al-Senoussi was captured alive on Sunday by revolutionary fighters from a southern region called Fazan, not far from where Gadhafi's son was seized on Saturday while trying to flee to neighboring Niger.
Fighters tracking al-Senoussi for two days caught up with him at his sister's house in Deerat al-Shati, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) south of the desert city of Sebha, said fighter Abdullah al-Sughayer. There were few other immediate details on his capture, and it was not clear whether his captors would also resist turning him over to Tripoli.
Though they are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Libya will likely seek to try both men at home.
Speaking earlier in the day, before al-Senoussi's capture, the information minister said Seif al-Islam, the ousted Libyan leader's one-time heir apparent, must be tried in Libya even though the country's new leaders have yet to establish a court system.
"It is only fair for the Libyan people that he is tried here. … Seif al-Islam committed crimes against the Libyan people," Shammam told The Associated Press.
"The ICC is just a secondary court, and the people of Libya will not allow Seif al-Islam to be tried outside," Shammam said.
The ICC indicted the two men along with Gadhafi in June for unleashing a campaign of murder and torture to suppress the uprising against the Gadhafi regime that broke out in mid-February.
Al-Senoussi, Gadhafi's brother-in-law, was also one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a French passenger over Niger that killed all 170 people on board.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said Sunday that Libya would have to convincingly lay out its arguments in what is called a "challenge of admissibility" if it wanted to try the two men at home instead of sending them to The Hague court.
"The issue is that there is already a case before the (ICC) court," he said. "Now Libya has a legal obligation under international law to present a challenge to say: 'We have this suspect and he will be dealt with under our national laws.'"
"… They will need to show that they have a serious, genuine legal system capable of functioning fairly in this case," he said.
Seif al-Islam, who was once the face of reform in Libya and who led his father's drive to emerge from pariah status over the last decade, was captured by fighters from the small western mountain town of Zintan who had tracked him to the desert in the south of the country.
He was then flown to Zintan, 85 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli, where he remains in a secret location.
On Sunday, the fighters holding Seif al-Islam posted a video on YouTube of him saying an injury to his hand was the result of a NATO airstrike a month ago that struck his convoy in Wadi Zamzam, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli. He said 26 people were killed in the strike.
Photos of him with three fingers of his right hand in bandages had raised questions about whether he was mistreated by his captors.
"The agreement is that I receive medical treatment here in Zintan because there is a medical team and they have the necessary anesthesia for an operation," he said.
In the video, he appeared in good health and was dressed in brown robes and a turban in the style of ethnic Tuaregs.
He seemed confident, even referring to those holding him prisoner as "brothers and family."
"There is no problem. We are talking and dialoguing and we have much to talk about," he said.
The faction of rebel fighters from the western mountains formed one of the key forces against Gadhafi's regime during the six-month civil war.
Even after Gadhafi's fall in August and after his capture and killing in October, Libya's numerous and sometime competing rebel factions have refused to disarm, raising fears of new violence and instability.
"We have priority over Seif al-Islam — we caught him, and we were the forefront leaders in this revolution," said Tahir al-Turki, head of the small town's local council, explaining why he would not be sent to the capital.
"He will be safer with us in Zintan. We don't know who will take him or deal with him in Tripoli," he said.
That position shows how powerful regional factions backed by bands of armed fighters are able to act autonomously, even on issues of the highest national interest.
Shammam, the information minister, played down suggestions that a power struggle was brewing over the high-value prisoner or that the position of local officials was undermining the authority of the national leadership.
He said the national leadership had no objection to keeping Seif al-Islam in Zintan until a trial can be organized, but that the small town was not capable of organizing and holding the trial itself.
"If you catch a criminal in Texas, you're not going to bring him to Washington, are you?" Shammam told the AP.
Authorities in the National Transitional Council would also likely face challenges in organizing a trial.
Libya, under the elder Gadhafi's 42-year rule, had intentionally weak state institutions and a government that barely existed. Gadhafi, who held no title, had ultimate authority and did not want the development of any other power centers that might challenge him.
As a result, a capable court system, like other state bodies, must be built from scratch.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told the AP Saturday that he will travel to Libya on Monday for talks with the NTC on where the trial will take place.
Ocampo said that while national governments have the first right to try their own citizens for war crimes, his primary goal was to ensure Seif al-Islam has a fair trial.
International human rights groups have called for Seif al-Islam to be quickly sent to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, citing the apparent killings in custody of his father and brother Muatassim on Oct. 20 as "particular cause for concern."
Meanwhile, new details emerged about Seif al-Islam's capture in which fighters swarmed a two-car convoy in the south of the country that some officials said was on its way to neighboring Niger. The car carrying him got stuck in the sand while trying to escape.
Al-Ajami al-Etery, who led the operation, said Seif al-Islam tried to hide his features by throwing sand on his face when he stepped out of his car.
"He said his name was Abdel-Salam and he pretended to be a shepherd, but we found him out and arrested him," he told the AP.
Covered in sand and posing as a camel herder, the Gaddafi son who could face firing squad
By TOM KELLY and REBECCA EVANS
Last updated at 12:12 AM on 21st November 2011
The playboy son of Colonel Gaddafi could face a firing squad after the Libyan government yesterday refused to hand him over to the International Criminal Court.
Officials in Tripoli insisted that British-educated Saif Al-Islam, who was captured on Saturday, would stand trial in his own country for crimes against the Libyan people. The charge carries the death penalty.
The 39-year-old used to wear fashionable western clothes and designer stubble when he threw wild parties in the South of France and at his £10million mansion in Hampstead, North London.
But when rebel fighters tracked him down in the southern Libyan desert, trying to flee over the border to Niger, he wore a bushy black beard, turban and flowing robes.
Dishevelled and smeared in sand, new pictures show moment Gaddafi's playboy son Saif was captured by rebels
How British spies thwarted a terror attack by Gaddafi: Suicide bomb targeted diplomats
Saif – who recently said he would fight to his death – claimed he was a humble camel herder and gave his name as the Arabic equivalent of John Smith.
He then leapt from his car and made a farcical attempt to hide behind it before diving under a bundle of clothes, covering it with sand. He also rubbed sand on his face and head in an apparent attempt to disguise himself.
‘But when we told him to surrender he did,’ said Ajami Ali al-Atari, the commander of the operation.
The rebels flew him to the town of Zintan, south of Tripoli, where a mob of locals surrounded the Libyan air force transport plane.
A tape recording picked up some of the conversations on the tarmac between Saif and his captors.
‘I knew it. I knew that there would be a big crowd,’ he was heard saying as he peeped out through curtains before recoiling in apparent terror. He added: ‘I’m staying here. They’ll empty their guns into me the second I go out there.’
But when men in the plane lit up cigarettes, he told them they were putting his life at risk. ‘The plane’s sealed and we’ll suffocate,’ he said. ‘We’re going to choke to death.’
When one of his guards suggested opening the door for ventilation, he appeared to think the armed crowd banging on the walls posed a more immediate threat to his health. ‘I don’t need fresh air, man,’ he said.
Amnesty International called for Saif to be urgently handed over to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands amid fears that he could suffer the same fate as his father, who was killed soon after he was caught by rebels last month.
But Libya has no agreement with the International Criminal Court, and its justice minister Mohammed
Al Alagy said: ‘We are ready to prosecute. We have adopted enough legal and judicial procedures to ensure a fair trial for him.’
Saif and four bodyguards were stopped by small unit of rebel fighters in pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns following a tip-off that he was planning to escape over the border.
His fingers were wrapped in bandages and his legs covered with a blanket after apparently being injured in a Nato air raid a month ago.
He is thought to have been hiding in the southern desert since last month fleeing his tribal stronghold of Bani Walid, near the capital, Tripoli.
Abdul al-Salaam al-Wahissi, a Zintan fighter involved in the operation said: ‘He looked tired. He had been lost in the desert for many days. I think he lost his guide.’
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has said that he will travel to Libya today for talks with the ruling National Transitional Council on where Saif’s trial will take place. He said that while national governments have the first right to try their own citizens for war crimes, his primary goal was to ensure a fair trial.
Human Rights Watch warned that the killing of Colonel Gaddafi after being captured was a ‘particular cause for concern’ if Saif is kept in Libya.
But Libya’s information minister Mahmoud Shammam said: ‘The ICC is just a secondary court, and the people of Libya will not allow Saif to be tried outside.’
Saif is expected to be charged with crimes including instigating others to kill and misusing public funds.
The transitional government has yet to rule on its preferred form of execution for criminals.
Colonel Gaddafi notoriously hanged hundreds of political opponents, sometimes in public executions broadcast on TV.
But it is believed the firing squad may become the method of execution for the new state.
Only three weeks ago Saif had vowed to avenge his father’s death, declaring defiantly: ‘I am alive and free and willing to fight to the end.’
Last night he remained in a safe house in Zintan, where the townsfolk vowed to keep him alive until he can face a judge in the capital.
Tripoli’s new rulers said last night that ex-Intelligence Minister Abdullah al-Senoussi had been captured alive by revolutionary fighters, not far from where Saif was seized.
Fighters tracking al-Senoussi for two days caught up with him at his sister’s house in Deerat al-Shati, about 40 miles south of the desert city of Sebha.
Al-Senoussi, Colonel Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, was one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger which killed all 170 on board.
The friends of Saif who will be hoping he keeps quiet
Confession may be good for the soul. But there will be many in the West who hope Saif Al-Islam does not feel the need to tell all.
For he knows the secrets of a powerful clique of politicians and businessmen who shamelessly courted him and his father’s brutal regime.
So who are these friends of Saif, and what are the key questions they might have to answer?
Personal family friend: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
Link: Embraced Colonel Gaddafi in his tent in 2004 and introduced a United Nations resolution to lift sanctions against Libya. Saif described Mr Blair as a ‘personal family friend’ who had visited Libya ‘many, many times’. The former Prime Minister also helped Saif with his ‘plagiarised’ philosophy PhD thesis while he was studying at the London School of Economics, which later accepted huge donations from the Gaddafi clan.
Blair was anxious to befriend Saif. Having brokered a deal to get Colonel Gaddafi to renounce chemical weapons in 2003, he was keen to open Libya to British business – and regarded Saif as the man to deal with.
Letters found in Colonel Gaddafi’s compound bear this out. They show how first Blair and then Gordon Brown stressed how pleased they would be for any progress on oil deals between Libya and BP, where Anji Hunter, Blair’s former personal adviser, had taken up a senior executive post.
After receiving Saif’s 400-page LSE thesis, Blair’s lengthy response included points on how to prevent corruption in oil-rich nations – all the more ironic considering Saif and his father are believed to have plundered £100billion from their country’s coffers.
Key questions: What was Blair’s involvement with the £40million Libyan Investment Authority set up by the Gaddafis in 2006? Did he ever promise to secure the Lockerbie bomber’s release? Why did he assist with Saif’s thesis?
Link: The millionaire banker is said to be good friends with Saif. He is thought to have introduced him to Lord Mandelson, Chancellor George Osborne, and Mandelson’s friend, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Saif also spent time at the Rothschilds’ Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. His 37th birthday was held at an opulent nightclub and marina in Montenegro, attended by Rothschild and Deripaska.
Key question: Was Rothschild the main go-between in Gaddafi’s dealings with the Labour government?
Influence: Lord Mandelson met Saif at a shooting party
Link: Attended a shooting party with Saif at the Rothschilds’ Buckinghamshire mansion. Both Saif and Mandelson are friends of Oleg Deripaska, whose villa and yacht they both stayed on in 2008.
Mandelson discussed with Saif the fate of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Key question: Did Mandelson exert political pressure to help facilitate the release of Megrahi?
Link: Invited Saif to stay at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Also a regular visitor to Tripoli as a trade ambassador.
Key question: What was the full extent of his relationship with the Gaddafi regime?
SIR HOWARD DAVIES
Link: Director of the LSE when Saif attended from 2003 to 2008 – and when the university accepted a £1.5million donation. He was also in charge when the LSE agreed a contract to train hundreds of Libyan civil servants.
Key questions: Why was Saif awarded his PhD? Was it plagiarised as has been claimed? What are the full reasons for the university’s decision to get into bed with the Libyans?
Blair and a mere 'lapse of judgment'
By REBECCA EVANS and TOM KELLY
Tony Blair’s close relationship with the Gaddafi family was yesterday dismissed by an ally as a mere ‘lapse of judgment’.
Lord Goldsmith, who served as Mr Blair’s Attorney General for six years, said that cosying up to Colonel Gaddafi was trivial when compared with the crimes of the former Libyan dictator’s bloody regime.
His comments followed claims that the capture of the tyrant’s playboy son Saif could cause acute potential embarrassment for Britain’s political elite.
Links: Blair and Gadaffi pictured in 2007 - will he be squirming regarding Saif's capture?
So far, none of Saif’s former acquaintances has commented on what should now happen to the brutal dictator’s son.
But yesterday Lord Goldsmith, a key ally and staunch defender of the former Prime Minister, said that Mr Blair’s notorious ‘deal in the desert’ had not tarnished Britain’s reputation. He also said it was disappointing that coverage of Saif’s capture would focus on what ‘Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were doing’.
Interviewed by Sky News, he said: ‘Now we have the possibility of proper trials, of justice being done and what do we talk about? We worry whether Tony Blair had a lapse of judgment. Come on!’
On the defensive: Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith
But the political commentator John Sergeant suggested Mr Blair’s notorious deal with Gaddafi was now an embarrassment for Britain, adding: ‘It looked like a great British success at the time – it now looks like a millstone.’
Lord Goldsmith’s dismissal of Mr Blair’s involvement outraged relatives of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Susan Cohen, whose student daughter Theodora, 19, was among the 270 dead, denounced Lord Goldsmith’s comments as a ‘disgrace.’
She said: ‘How anyone can be so flippant about a world leader befriending a brutal dictator is frankly disgusting. Tony Blair knew exactly what he was doing. He made repeated visits to befriend a monster who murdered hundreds of innocent people.
‘It was totally inexcusable and an appalling blunder. It should never be dismissed as a simple “lapse of judgment”. Nothing could ever justify Blair’s befriending of Gaddafi. It was disgusting.’
Lord Goldsmith was appointed Attorney General in 2001 and stood down on the same day Mr Blair announced his resignation as Prime Minister.
In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he advised Mr Blair that a single UN resolution was not sufficient to authorise force. He was overruled and the PM fought for years to keep his advice a secret.
Saif was a key player in Libya’s campaign to renounce nuclear status and became close to leading figures after Mr Blair signed the ‘deal in the desert’ in March 2004, which saw British firms such as BP and Shell sign massive contracts with the Libyans.
Mr Blair’s visit also led to negotiations over a prisoner transfer agreement which ultimately paved the way for the release of Megrahi.
Welcome guest: Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi chat during a break in talks during a visit to Tripoli by the former Prime Minister
Saif studied at LSE from 2003 to 2008, gaining both a Master of Science degree and a doctorate. The university has been heavily criticised for accepting a £1.5million donation from the Gaddafis after Saif was awarded a PhD – now being investigated for plagiarism – in 2008.
It received a total of £300,000, which it later agreed to pay back to the Libyan people in the form of scholarships. It also signed a £2.2million contract to train hundreds of Libyan civil servants and even allowed Colonel Gaddafi himself to lecture via video link.
An inquiry by Lord Woolf, the retired Lord Chief Justice, is believed to have found multiple failings in the LSE’s decision to accept the donation.
Mr Blair’s spokesman last night said: ‘For the record, Tony Blair has only met Saif Gaddafi twice; on both occasions, there were officials and staff present.’
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Labour had ‘nothing to fear’ about what might come out about the party’s links to the Gaddafi regime. He said: ‘I know at the time the motive was the right motive: could you see disarmament and progress on peace? That was the right thing to do then.’
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT SAIF AL-ISLAM GADDAFI?
Born in 1972, Saif (pictured right) is the oldest of seven children.
He earned an engineering degree in Libya and a business degree in Austria before wrapping up his education with a master's degree and doctorate at the London School of Economics in 2008.
His engagement in Libyan politics began in the 1990s, when he became the president of the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations.
The organisation has acted as an intermediary in several disputes and helped lead to a rapprochement between Libya and the international community.
He often acted as an envoy for his father's regime, and in 2002 and 2003 helped broker the agreement that saw Libya renounce its weapons of mass destruction program and begin its journey back into the international fold.
He lobbied militants to release hostages, funded research at the London School of Economics, welcomed world leaders and Western intellectuals to his country and portrayed himself as a champion of economic and social reforms.
In 2009, he aided talks in Britain that eventually secured the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by the website WikiLeaks said his high-profile role as the public face of the regime to the West has been a mixed blessing for him.
It added: 'While it has bolstered his image ... many Libyans view him as self-aggrandizing and too eager to please foreigners at the expense of Libyans' interest.'