Confusion in Libya after Saif al-Islam trial hearing not held

Published Thursday, February 27, 2014

There was confusion Thursday over the trial of Saif al-Islam, son of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, after a scheduled hearing on charges of threatening national security did not take place.

Saif, whose charges stem from the 2011 uprising that ousted his father, last appeared in court in the western city of Zintan on December 12.

His lawyer said then that the next hearing was scheduled for Thursday, and prosecution spokesman Seddik al-Sour confirmed that as recently as Wednesday.

But Sour retracted that Thursday. He said the hearing had actually been scheduled for last Thursday but had then been postponed because it coincided with voting for an assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

"It is up to the Zintan court to fix a new hearing date," he said.

On October 24, a Tripoli court indicted Saif and 36 other Gaddafi aides for a raft of alleged offences during the uprising.

But Zintan rebels refused to have him transferred to the capital, despite a request from Libya's prosecutor general and even though the authorities say his jail is under state control.

Saif, Gaddafi's former heir apparent, is still wanted for trial by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the uprising.

In May, the ICC rejected Tripoli's request to try him in Libya because of doubts over a fair trial. Tripoli has appealed the decision.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch called on Libyan authorities to provide proper defense counsel to Saif and his co-defendants to ensure they receive a fair trial.

The New York-based watchdog said that during visits by its staff last month, both Saif and former spy chief Abdullah Senussi had complained they had no representation at all during interrogations and pre-trial hearings in their prosecution for gross abuses during the uprising.

The charges include murder, kidnapping, complicity in incitement to rape, plunder, sabotage, embezzlement of public funds and acts harmful to national unity.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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