Ex-Libyan PM loses last Tunisia extradition appeal

November 26, 2011 - 7:30 AM

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Tunisian appeals court has upheld the extradition of Libya's prime minister during the last years of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, the final step in the appeals process.

The late Friday decision in the Tunis court means Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi has run out of appeals and can now be sent back to Libya, pending the approval of Tunisia's government and president.

It was unclear whether Tunisia's incoming president, who is a former head of the country's best-known human rights group, would sign the order. Al-Mahmoudi's lawyers have also appealed to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, asking them to grant him a status of political refuge.

Al-Mahmoudi, a trained obstetrician-gynecologist, served as Gadhafi's prime minister from 2006 to 2011, and through the final days of the former Libyan leader's autocratic regime of nearly 42 years. Rebels fighters toppled Gadhafi's regime in August.

Al-Mahmoudi was convicted of illegally crossing into Tunisia and imprisoned there in September, but the conviction was later overturned. Libyan authorities then requested his extradition.

Several non-governmental groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Tunisian League of Human Rights oppose his extradition on fears al-Mahmoudi could face torture or an unfair trial at home.

Al-Mahmoudi was not present for the court decision, in the face of "death threats against him by Libyans," said the head of his legal defense team, Mabrouk Korchid.

One of Al-Mahmoudi's defense lawyers, Bechir Essid, said Tunisia's outgoing interim President Fouad Mebazaa had pledged to him that he would not sign the extradition order.

However, the order is expected to fall into the hands of President-elect Moncef Marzouki, who is scheduled to take office in the coming days. He's a former head of the Tunisian League of Human Rights.

Tunisia longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in January following a popular uprising that sparked a series of protests across the Arab world. The interim government has just stepped down and a new one is being formed by the newly elected assembly.