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Libya: conflict brewing over trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
The senior official of the town whose brigades captured Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the former Libyan dictator, set the ground for a new conflict on Sunday night by refusing to hand him over the central government.
By Richard Spencer
20 November 2011 • 10:30pm
"We are all Libyans," Taher al-Tourki, head of the Zintan Council, told The Daily Telegraph. "If you ask to take him to Tripoli, it is like you are saying it is a different country.
"We have the same courts here. We could put him on trial here – why not?"
Zintan's refusal to give up their prized captive, announced on the day that another brigade caught Col Gaddafi's right-hand man, Abdullah Senussi, demonstrated the weak hold the central authorities have on the country.
The Zintan brigade, which spearheaded the push on Tripoli in August, is resented in Tripoli in particular for its determination to hold on to its weapons, leading to a number of firefights.
A fight is also brewing on the international stage, with the National Transitional Council saying even if it took possession of Saif al-Islam it would refuse to hand him over to the International Criminal Court where he is charged with crimes against humanity.
"It is only fair for the Libyan people that he is tried here," Mahmoud Shammam, the information minister, said. "Saif al-Islam committed crimes against the Libyan people.
"The ICC is just a secondary court, and the people of Libya will not allow Saif al-Islam to be tried outside."
The dictator's son is being held with four companions in a secret location inside Zintan itself, Mr al-Tourki said. He added that he was being well-fed and cared for, and would get his due rights.
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He would be interrogated by a committee established by the attorney-general in due course he added, with the right to a lawyer "if that is what the law says".
Osama Jueili, the head of the Zintan Military Council and the man in charge of securing Saif al-Islam, said he visited him during the course of Sunday and took him to have treatment to his hand, injured in a Nato air strike as he fled the city of Bani Walid.
How long his whereabouts will remain a secret in Zintan, a small mountain city 100 miles south of Tripoli, remains unclear. The city, always hostile to Col Gaddafi, was besieged by his troops for three months, almost falling during a number of the 13 concerted attacks on it.
Mr Jueili himself sounded less than confident. "We are hoping to keep him secure and that he will not escape this time," he said. "But we can't say what tomorrow will bring.
"Even in high security jails prisoners sometimes escape but we are doing our best."
He said Saif al-Islam had been "nervous" when he arrived but had started to relax.
Mr al-Tourki said Saif al-Islam had not slept for three or four days before he was captured. "He was very tired," he said. "We gave him food and calmed him down and he slept in peace last night."
Senussi, who was also Col Gaddafi's brother-in-law, was seized by the Sabha Martyrs of Libya Brigade led by Sheikh Ahmed Hisnawi. He was found at his sister's house near his home town of Gira, north of Sabha.
His location on Sunday night was unclear but sources said he was likely to be held by the Brigade in Sabha.
The British Government said it would not interfere with Saif al-Islam's trial. "We have got confidence in both the ICC and what we have heard from the Libyan authorities that between them they will be able to work out where a trial will be held and then it will be held under international standards and conditions," said Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt.
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