Seif al-Islam caught, NTC vows fair trial
Moammar Gadhafi’s former heir apparent Seif al-Islam has been captured by revolutionary fighters in the southern desert just over a month after his father was killed, setting off joyous celebrations across Libya and closing the door on the possibility that the fugitive son could stoke further insurrection.
Libya’s interim rulers yesterday promised a fair trial for Seif as his captors vowed not to hand him over to Tripoli until a central government is formed. World powers are urging Libya to work with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which wants to try the 39-year-old for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in crushing anti-regime protests.
Britain, France and the United States all called on Libya’s new rulers to cooperate fully with the ICC. And Russia’s special representative for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, clearly articulated the concerns of the international community. “We are happy that this time the new authorities in Libya did not resort to summary justice for Seif al-Islam, the son of the ousted leader Gadhafi,” he said after Seif was flown to Zintan following his capture.
After three months on the run, Seif al-Islam was caught in Libya’s far-flung Saharan south early Nov. 19 in a trap set by a Zintan brigade of militiamen loyal to the new regime. The National Transitional Council (NTC), struggling to establish its judiciary, is under mounting pressure to ensure a fair trial for him after images emerged of his father dying following his capture on Oct. 20. “At the moment, he is being held in Zintan. We are going to guarantee the treatment of prisoners under international law,” said Osama Juili, head of the Zintan military council.
A photograph was widely circulated showing the 39-year-old son in custody, sitting by a bed and holding up three bandaged fingers as a guard looks on, although Osama Juwaid, a spokesman for the fighters from Zintan who made the arrest, said it was an old injury caused by a NATO airstrike and the detainee was otherwise in good health.
Meanwhile, more details about Seif al-Islam’s capture emerged yesterday, with one member of the Zintan brigade expressing surprise at the courage shown by Moammar Gadhafi’s longtime heir apparent. When they were ambushed, Seif and the five people with whom he was travelling in a two-car convoy “did not realize at first what they were dealing with.” “They were afraid at first to be shot, but we must acknowledge that Seif al-Islam surprised us with his calmness and courage.”
“We surprised them. They didn’t have the time to resist” being captured, he said, adding Seif and his men were armed with little more than “Kalashnikovs, light automatic rifles and grenades.” Video footage showed Seif being hauled off into captivity in Zintan after getting off a flight from the desert, but despite the presence of an angry mob, he was spared the brutal lynching dealt out to his father. Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib moved quickly to give the assurance that Seif would be brought fairly to justice.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.