Gadhafi’s former PM rattles Tunisia alliance

Gadhafi’s former PM rattles Tunisia alliance

Gadhafi’s former PM rattles Tunisia alliance

Deposed Libyan leader Gadhafi’s former Prime Minister al-Mahmoudi (C) is escorted in the office of his prison guard in Tripoli after being extradited from Tunis. REUTERS photo

A row inside Tunisia’s ruling alliance over the extradition of Libya’s former prime minister took a fresh turn late June 25 after reports that he had suffered a beating in a Libyan jail.

Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who served as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s last prime minister, had been beaten up on arriving back in Libya and hospitalized with a hemorrhage, his French lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi said. But Libyan officials were quick to dismiss the allegation.

“I completely deny reports that Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi was assaulted,” Deputy Justice Minister Khalifa Ashur told Agence France-Presse.

“He is being treated well in line with international standards and it is impossible for such an act to occur. He is in a safe place and his guards were carefully selected,” he added. Ceccaldi described how his client had been rushed out of Tunisia in the early hours of June 24 in what he described as a “kidnapping.”

Tunisia’s post-revolution political alliance had already been plunged into crisis over the affair. President Moncef Marzouki is furious that Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali ordered al-Mahmoudi’s transfer to Libya without his consent. Marzouki had always opposed the extradition, arguing that Libya’s new regime offered insufficient guarantees of a fair trial. But when Jebali approved the move, the president was in southern Tunisia for an official ceremony. Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist did not sign the extradition order and, according to his adviser, he only found out about al-Mahmoudi’s transfer through the media.

Nothing illegal: Marzouki

The presidency “considers this decision is illegal, all the more so because it has been done unilaterally and without consulting the president of the republic,” a statement from Marzouki’s office said late June 24.

But the government hit back immediately. There was nothing illegal with the extradition procedure, it insisted, adding Marzouki had been kept informed. The virulence of Marzouki’s statement has exposed the uneasy nature of his alliance with Jebali’s Ennahda (Renaissance) party, which won Tunisia’s post-uprising polls in October 2011. Marzouki has tried to retain control of Tunisia’s foreign policy in recent months, but the row over Mahmudi’s extradition illustrates how little sway he really holds for Tunisia’s three-way power deal is not an even split.