Home inContext Saif al-Islam Qaddafi Makes Court Appearance in Libya

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi Makes Court Appearance in Libya

Michael Johnson

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of the deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, made a court appearance in the western Libyan town of Zintan on Thursday. Seated behind bars and flanked by two masked policemen, Libya’s former heir apparent appeared smiling and in good health even as he was charged with threatening state security.

Libyan rebels originally captured Saif in 2011, but tensions soon arose with the international community over a trial venue. The International Criminal Court (ICC) insists the new Libyan government is legally obligated to extradite Saif to the Hague where he will face charges for crimes against humanity.

British-educated Saif al-Islam Qaddafi appeared in a criminal court today accused of threatening state security. (Photo: AP)

Saif’s current legal trouble stems from a meeting with ICC representatives last year. Rebels in Zintan arrested an envoy of lawyers from the international court after they met with Saif. Libya contends the visiting group facilitated Saif’s communication without approval. One of the lawyers, Australian Melinda Taylor, carried a pen camera and gave Saif a letter from a former aid. The ICC representatives secured their release the next month, but their detention raises serious concerns about the actions of Libyan authorities. Some of Saif’s current charges, the ICC contended after a January hearing, essentially try him “for attempting to communicate with the ICC via his counsel in relation to the fact that his rights had been violated.”

Lawyers working on Saif’s behalf at the ICC in the Netherlands claim the defendant will not receive a fair trial in Libya. A local court could use evidence obtained under torture or impose the death penalty. However, there are no signs of any agreement between the ICC and Tripoli to charge the late dictator’s eldest son in front of the international community.