Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son and one-time heir apparent of toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, will be moved to a Tripoli prison within two months and then face trial, said Mustafa Abdul Jalil the chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), in an interview on Sunday.
Three months after his capture in Libya’s Sahara dressed as a Bedouin tribesman, Mr. Saif al-Islam remains at a secret location in the northwestern town of Zintan, reflecting a wider problem of powerful local militias and a weak central government in the North African country.
Mr. Abdul Jalil said authorities were completing the construction of a prison in central Tripoli, begun under the ousted Col. Gadhafi, to which Saif al-Islam Gadhafi would be moved.
“At this moment he is being interrogated and his trial will begin as soon as the prison facility is ready,” Mr. Abdul Jalil added. “I can’t give an exact time frame in terms of weeks or months for this but it will not be more than two months.”
Zintan commanders say they have kept Mr. Gadhafi in their remote mountain town, rather than hand him over to Tripoli, to spare him the fate of his father. Col. Gadhafi was killed by his captors shortly after being seized in October, his decomposing body put on public display in a Misrata meat locker before being given an inglorious secret burial in the desert.
Mr. Gadhafi, a fluent English speaker educated at the London School of Economics, was seen as the Western-friendly face of Libya before transforming from liberal reformer to a key figure in his father’s fight against rebels seeking his overthrow.
He now faces trial in Tripoli on murder and rape charges and could face the death penalty if convicted. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicted him for crimes against humanity but Libya says he will be tried in his home country. “By God’s will, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will receive a fair trial and also all those who are accused in this regard,” Mr. Abdul Jalil said.
A transitional government appointed in November is leading the country to elections for a National Assembly in June, but is struggling to impose order on a myriad of armed groups that toppled Col. Gadhafi after 42 years in power. And his offspring continue to cast a shadow over the oil-rich state.
Al-Arabiya satellite television station, for example, broadcast a telephone interview with Mr. Gadhafi’s brother Saadi on Friday. Saadi, who fled south to Niger in September, said he was in regular contact with people in Libya unhappy with authorities and warned of a “coming uprising” in the country.
That prompted Libya to urge Niger to extradite Saadi, saying his comments threatened bilateral ties. But Niger said it could not hand over Saadi because he would face execution in Libya. Still, Mr. Abdul Jalil said, Niger ministers had apologized to their Libyan counterparts and have confiscated communication devices belonging to Saadi.
As it seeks to restore order, Libya’s government hopes to amalgamate militias into the police and national army but the process has been slow.
“The progress of this program has not been as we had hoped for as we wanted them to join as individuals not as groups,” Mr. Abdul Jalil said. “About 10 per cent have joined the security bodies and handed over their weapons.”
He also said there were plans to move residents of Tawergha, now living in refugee camps, back to their town. Col. Gadhafi’s forces used Tawergha as a base to besiege and shell Misrata during the war.
Human Rights Watch has said Misrata rebels have looted and destroyed homes in Tawergha and neighbouring farming villages and revenge attacks against refugees and arbitrary arrests continue. “Families and children will be returned to their homes as soon as those who are wanted face justice,” Mr. Abdul Jalil said.