Australia demands access to lawyer held in Libya
Published Sunday, June 10, 2012
Australian officials were on Sunday seeking access to an Australian lawyer detained in Libya as she was arranging the defense for slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam, a government spokesman said.
Melinda Taylor was one of four International Criminal Court staff detained and sources in Libya have said she was arrested after trying to pass documents to Seif.
A commander with the Zintan brigade, the former rebel fighters who captured Seif and are still holding him, said one of the lawyers with the group had been trying to pass "dangerous" documents to him.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr confirmed that the Australian held was Melinda Taylor and that she was working for the ICC.
"She and three others, who are not Australians, have all been detained," he told AFP. "We are attempting to get access to her but have not succeeded."
He said Australian officials did not know why Taylor had been detained, or who was holding her.
Libya's representative to the ICC, Ahmed al-Jehani, said Taylor was "under house arrest in Zintan, not in prison" and was being questioned. Zintan lies about 180 kilometers southwest of the Libyan capital.
Ajmi al-Atiri, commander of the Zintan brigade, said a team of four ICC delegates had come to visit Seif on Thursday and had asked to meet him in private, a request they had been refused.
Two female ICC delegates were searched by a policewoman after the visit and the documents were found on the ICC lawyer.
The documents in question included an unsigned letter from Seif to the ICC saying "there is no government or law in Libya" and that he was being "ill-treated." There was also a blank document signed by him.
Taylor works with Xavier-Jean Keita, the defense attorney appointed by the ICC. Contacted by AFP, Keita declined to make any comment.
Although the ICC delegation's visit was authorized by Libya's chief prosecutor, the complaint was that Taylor had tried to deliver the documents without first declaring them.
The ICC wants to try both Seif, 39, and his late father's spymaster, Abdullah Senussi, for crimes against humanity committed while trying to put down last year's bloody revolt.
But the new regime in Libya wants to put Seif on trial in a local court. Gaddafi himself was captured and killed by rebel forces on October 20.
Libya continues to be rocked by chaos following the Western-led bombing campaign that led to the downfall of Gaddafi.