Int'l court prosecutor in Libya for trial talks

November 22, 2011 - 8:05 AM
Mideast Libya Gadhafi

This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group that was taken Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, purports to show Seif al-Islam Gadhafi following his capture near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP Photo/Libyan Youth Movement) EDITORIAL USE ONLY; LOGO MUST BE USED; MANDATORY CREDIT

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The International Criminal Court's prosecutor was in Tripoli for talks Tuesday with Libyan authorities about their plans to put on trial Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent Seif al-Islam Gadhafi.

Revolutionary fighters captured Seif al-Islam Saturday in southern Libya, and he is being held by fighters in the mountain town of Zintan, southwest of the capital. A local spokesman for Libya's new leadership says former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi also was captured over the weekend and is being held in the southern city of Sabha.

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. Libya's new leaders have said they will try Seif al-Islam at home and not hand him over to the Hague court.

The court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said in a statement Tuesday before his arrival in Tripoli that Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi "must face justice."

Rights groups have called on Libya to hand both men over for trial in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo stressed that even if Libyans want to try the two men in Libya they must still cooperate with the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Libya is obliged by a Security Council resolution to work with the court, but that does not necessarily preclude a trial in Libya. If the National Transitional Council can convince judges in The Hague that the country has a functioning legal system that will give Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi a fair trial on substantially the same charges as Moreno-Ocampo filed, then the ICC could declare Moreno-Ocampo's case inadmissible and turn it over to Libya.

"I will talk to the national authorities and seek information about proposed national proceedings in order to assist us in analyzing the admissibility of the case against Seif Gadhafi and Abdullah al-Senoussi and to understand their plans moving ahead," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. "Their arrest is a crucial step in bringing to justice those most responsible for crimes committed in Libya."

The country's new leaders have not yet established a functioning court system, and have been struggling to put together a new transitional government since Gadhafi's fall. Later Tuesday, interim prime minister Abdurrahim el-Keib was expected to announce the members of his new Cabinet.

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 Saturday 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.

In new video footage taken the day of his capture and obtained by The Associated Press, Seif al-Islam warns his captors that Libya's regions that united to oust Gadhafi will turn against each other "in a couple of months or maximum one year," suggesting the country will descend into infighting.

There have been signs in recent months of growing tensions among Libya's powerful regions, and even after Gadhafi's fall in August and after his capture and killing in October, the country's numerous and sometime competing revolutionary factions have refused to disarm, raising fears of new violence and instability. The regions, backed by bands of armed fighters, are able to act autonomously, even on issues of the highest national interest.

In the video, revolutionary fighters stand around Seif al-Islam, who is seated in a green chair. Three of his fingers are heavily bandaged, and he occasionally winces from the pain.

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.