Capture of Gadhafi’s son a ‘critical’ step: general
Libyan officials vow to protect prisoner, bring him to trial
HALIFAX • The Canadian who oversaw NATO’S Libya mission has praised the capture of Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saif as a key step as the North African nation seeks to close the books on its recent past and look to the future.
Saif Gadhafi’s “arrest at the hands of Libyans is critical,” Lt.- Gen. Charles Bouchard told reporters Saturday morning. “It’s critical in that it’s going to help this country bring closure.”
Bouchard led NATO’S sevenmonth air-and-sea campaign in Libya, which wrapped up on Oct. 31 after Moammar Gadhafi was captured by rebel fighters and subsequently killed.
Allegations that he was executed instead of being brought to face trial prompted widespread concern in the international community.
Bouchard said the fact Saif al-islam Gadhafi was captured alive and will face justice is a key development for Libya.
“It’s imperative, in my opinion, for Libyans to show their ability to exercise their legitimacy through the proper conduct of law and order.”
Bouchard is in Halifax attending a major three-day defence conference that has been looking specifically at the Arab Spring and the events in Libya, Syria and other parts of the region.
Across Libya, residents, expressed jubilation at the seizure of the British-educated 39-year-old who a year ago seemed set for a dynastic succession to rule the oil-producing African desert state.
The once heir apparent to Moammar Gadhafi was captured in the southern Libyan desert by Zintan fighters, who make up one of the powerful militia factions holding ultimate power in a country still without a government. The militia said they planned to keep him in Zintan until they could hand him over to the authorities.
Saif al-islam, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, and three armed companions were taken without a fight overnight, officials said. He was not injured.
A photograph of Saif al-islam showed him lying on what appeared to be a reclining sofa with his fingers wrapped in bandages and his legs covered with a thick, brown blanket. The wounds were apparently sustained earlier.
Prime minister-designate Abdurrahim El-keib is scheduled to form a government by Tuesday, and the fate of Saif al-islam, whom Libyans want to try at home before, possibly, handing him over to the ICC, will be an early test of its authority.
Moammar Gadhafi’s beating, abuse and ultimate death in the custody of former rebel fighters was an embarrassment to the previous transitional government. Officials in Tripoli said they were determined to handle his son’s case with more order.
A fighter from the anti-gadhafi force, the Khaled bin al-waleed Brigade, which said it seized Saif alIslam in the wilderness near the oil town of Obari told Free Libya television: “We got a tip he had been staying there for the last month.
“They couldn’t get away because we had a good plan,” Wisam Dughaly added, saying Saif al-islam had been using a 4x4 vehicle: “He was not hurt and will be taken safely for trial so Libyans will be able to prosecute him and get back their money.
“We will take him to Zintan for safekeeping to keep him alive until a government is formed and then we will hand him over as soon as possible,” Dughaly said.
He said Saif al-islam appeared to have been hiding in the desert since fleeing the tribal bastion of Bani Walid, near Tripoli, in October.
Justice Minister Mohammed alAlagy said he was in touch with the ICC over how to deal with Gadhafi, either at home or The Hague.
He told Al Jazeera: “We Libyans do not oppose the presence of international monitors to monitor the trial procedures that will take place for the symbols of the former regime.”
Other Libyan officials have said a trial in Libya should first address killings, repression and wholesale theft of public funds over the four decades of the elder Gadhafi’s personal rule. After that, the ICC might try him accusing him of giving orders to kill unarmed demonstrators after February’s revolt.
There was no word of the other official wanted by the ICC, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-senussi.