Wednesday 22 November 2017

Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam on TV defiant and free

Saif al Islam in Tripoli last night. Photo: BBC

Muammer Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has not been arrested by rebels - despite earlier reports - and is still in Tripoli.

Several journalists, including an AFP and BBC correspondent, saw Saif al-Islam in Gaddafi's residential complex in the capital.

When asked if his father was still in Tripoli, Saif replied: "Of course".

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had earlier said the 39-year-old was arrested and in detention.

"I am here to refute the lies," Gaddafi's son said, referring to reports of his arrest.

Three journalists were taken by car to Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizya compound by representatives of the regime.

Saif al-Islam arrived in a vehicle in front of the building complex, which was bombed by the Americans in 1986.

He was greeted by several dozen supporters waving his portrait and that of his father, as well as Libyan flags.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo had said Saif al-Islam was arrested and in detention, calling for his swift transfer.

"We hope he can soon be in The Hague" to face judgement, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said as he indicated he was planning to contact the transitional government later in the day.

An ICC spokesman said Monday that the court is seeking Saif al-Islam's transfer to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Saif al-Islam is accused together with his father with orchestrating a plan to put down the Libyan revolt by "any means necessary" since it was sparked in mid-February.

This included the murder of hundreds of pro-freedom Libyan protestors and injuring hundreds of others when security forces shot a crowds using live ammunition, as well as the arrest and torture of numerous others.

Before the revolt erupted, Saif al-Islam was increasingly seen as a successor to his father, despite publicly ruling out any dynastic ambitions in the North African country.

Described as the Libyan strongman's de facto prime minister and most influential person within his inner circle, Saif al-Islam is wanted because he "espoused and executed Muammer Gaddafi's plan which led to the commission of the crimes", a court document stated.

Meanwhile, Mustapha Ben Halim, Libyan prime minister from 1954-57 who has urged Saif al-Islam to pursue reform, has told CNN: "The circus is over."

He said he expects Gaddafi to go into exile and to "continue his fight". He called on the new government to care for the orphans and families of "20,000 martyrs".

Rebels in Tripoli remain defiant today, despite the push back from loyalists. Fighter Abdel Azouz told the Washington Post:

"We are winning, it is safe. There's just a few dirty rats here and there who don't want to give up."

As Libyans wake up to images of Saif al-Islam free and defiant, the rebels are facing hard questions about how he managed to escape detention, or if he was ever captured at all.

Sabri Malik, a UK-based Libyan dissident, has claimed that Saif al-Islam was arrested but then freed by a rebel faction secretly protecting the Gaddafi family, according to the BBC.

Al-Jazeera reports rebels in Benghazi are shocked and dismayed by his reappearance.

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