Cap­ture of Gad­hafi’s son a ‘crit­i­cal’ step: gen­eral

Libyan of­fi­cials vow to pro­tect pris­oner, bring him to trial

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - LEE BERTHI­AUME

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.

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