Ines Bel Aiba, AFP
Last updated: 10 November, 2011

Libya assures of fair trial for ex-PM

Libya’s former prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi will get a “fair trial” when he is extradited from Tunisia to face Libyan justice, interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told AFP on Thursday.

“First of all we will ensure a secure place for him, then we will guarantee a fair trial, despite the acts he has perpetrated against the Libyan people,” said Abdel Jalil, chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council.

Similar assurances were offered in Tripoli by interim oil minister Ali Tarhuni, who told AFP that Mahmudi would be given a public trial.

“Everything will be done to guarantee a fair trial,” Tarhuni said, adding that no date had yet been set for the former premier’s extradition.

Human rights groups have expressed fears for Mahmudi’s safety if he is sent back to Libya from Tunisian captivity after ousted Libyan tyrant Moamer Kadhafi was felled by a bullet to the head when captured by NTC fighters last month.

Mahmudi, 70, was prime minister until the final days of the Kadhafi regime. He was arrested on September 21 on Tunisia’s southwestern border with Algeria and jailed for illegal entry.

A Tunisian appeals court this week gave the nod for his extradition to Libya.

Mahmudi’s lawyer Mabrouk Kourchid said in Tunis that his client fears for his life as the sole holder of Libyan state secrets since Kadhafi’s death on October 20.

During the extradition hearing in a Tunis court, dozens of Libyans rallied outside the building demanding the man they called the “third tyrant of Libya” — after Kadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam — be sent back to face justice.

“The Libyan people have the right to apply the law to those who robbed the people,” one banner read.

Kourchid said Mahmudi “does not oppose a fair verdict for the whole period during which he was prime minister. But Mr Mahmudi thinks the time is not right, because the current period of chaos prevailing in Libya is dominated by vengeance.”

Amnesty International last week urged Tunisia not to extradite Mahmudi, saying he risked being subject to “serious human rights violations.”

The London-based watchdog warned that “if he would be returned to Libya, he would at present face real risks, serious human rights violations, including torture … extra-judicial execution and unfair trial,” the group’s north Africa spokesman James Lynch told AFP.

“It’s about the risk to the person, it’s not about his particular crimes. It’s about the risks to him and the people like him being returned,” he said.

Shortly after Mahmudi’s arrest, a Tunisian court sentenced him to six months in prison after finding him guilty of illegal entry. That decision was overturned on appeal.

Tunisia in August recognised Libya’s NTC as the country’s new authority and has committed itself to cooperation on security issues.