Libya sentenced Qaddafi's son to death over war crimes

Nine former officials have been sentenced to death, eight have received life sentences, and seven were given jail terms of 12 years each.

Stringer/Reuters/File
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, attends a hearing behind bars in a courtroom in Zintan, Libya, on May 25, 2014.

A Libyan court sentenced Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, to death in absentia on Tuesday over war crimes linked to the country’s 2011 revolution.

The court also sentenced eight others, including Abdullah al-Senussi, former head of intelligence for the Gaddafi regime, and former prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to death by firing squad, the BBC reported.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Abuzaid Dorda, another former prime minister, is also among the nine people sentenced to death.

More than 30 close associates of the late Col. Qaddafi were on trial for crashing peaceful protests during the uprising that eventually toppled his regime, in 2011.

Eight other former officials received life sentences, seven were given jail terms of 12 years each, and four were acquitted, chief investigator Sadiq al-Sur told a news conference.

Human Rights Watch reports that a total of 38 people initially went on trial. Thirty-two have received prison terms ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

Currently two opposing factions are running Libya – an internationally recognized parliament based in Tobruk, and an Islamist coalition known as the General National Congress, or Libya Dawn, in Tripoli.

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi was arrested in southern Libya in November 2011 by fighters from the western town of Zintan. He has been held since then in Zintan by the former rebel group who are now allied to the Tobruk-based government. He was participating in Tuesday's trial via video link.

Mr. Qaddafi is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2011 uprising, but the former rebel group in Zintan are refusing to hand him over to the ICC or to Tripoli.

"I don't think the Zintanis will give him up," Anas El-Gomati, a political analyst and director of Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute, told Al Jazeera. "They will not look for any solution going forward. These are two [administrations] who oppose each other and show no signs of trying to work together," he added referring to factions in Tripoli and Tobruk.

The trial for the Qaddafi-era officials ran from March 2014 to May 2015. Since the beginning, human rights groups have been questioning the fairness of the trial.

The Tuesday trial was also followed by criticism.

The United Nations human rights office said in a statement that the detention and trial had failed to meet international fair trial standards, including “failure to establish individual criminal responsibility, lack of access to lawyers, claims of ill-treatment, and trials conducted in absentia,” Reuters reported.

Amnesty International said the trial was "marred with serious flaws that highlight Libya’s inability to administer justice effectively in line with international fair trial standards."

And Human Rights Watch stated the trial “was undermined by serious due process violations.”

“This trial has been plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice, but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings.”

The defendants have a right to appeal within 60 days, the BBC reported.

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