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Libyan Revolution Fighters Capture Last Figure of the Dictatorial Regime, Saif Al-Qadhafi

Saif al-Islam says he is fine after capture

Ma'an, 20/11/2011 13:29

 (ZINTAN (Reuters) --

Saif al-Islam Qadhafi said Saturday that he was feeling fine after being captured by some of the fighters who overthrew his father and he said injuries to his right hand were suffered during a NATO air strike a month ago.

Asked by Reuters correspondent Marie-Louise Gumuchian on the plane which flew him to the town of Zintan if he was feeling all right, Gaddafi said simply: "Yes."

Reluctant to speak at length, the London-educated 39-year-old son of Mu'ammar Qadhafi was asked about bandages on the thumb and two fingers of his right hand. "Air force, air force," he said. Asked if that meant a NATO air strike, he said: "Yes.

"One month ago."

Aides to Gaddafi had said his motorcade was caught by a NATO air strike as he tried to flee the pro-Qadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid, near Tripoli, on Oct. 19, the day before his father was captured and killed in his home town of Sirte.

After the brief exchange with the heavily bearded prisoner, Libyan journalists who have met Saif al-Islam said they had no doubt that was indeed him -- though he repeatedly declined to confirm his identity outright.

So great was the crowd which thronged the Soviet-built cargo aircraft that flew him up from the desert town of Obari that his captors removed four other prisoners and other people from the plane, leaving Saif al-Islam still on board on the tarmac.

Libyans say detain Saif al-Islam Gadhafi

Ma'an, 20/11/2011 15:29

 (Reuters/Paul Hackett, File)

By Alastair Macdonald

TRIPOLI (Reuters) --

Mu'ammar Qadhafi's son and heir apparent Saif al-Islam has been detained in the southern desert, Libya's interim justice minister and other officials said Saturday.

They said Saif al-Islam and several bodyguards, but no other senior figures from the ousted administration, had been taken near the town of Obari by fighters based in the western mountain town of Zintan.

"We have arrested Saif al-Islam Gadhafi in the Obari area," Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagy said, adding that the 39-year-old who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at The Hague was not injured.

Another senior official in the executive of the National Transitional Council said that the interim government was still checking the details of what had happened.

There was no word of the other official wanted by the ICC, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.

The news broke as fighters from Zintan, a powerful faction among the many armed groups currently dominating Libya while the NTC tries to form a new government, started celebrating in Tripoli.

Bashir Thaelba, a Zintan field commander who had called a news conference on another issue, told reporters in the capital that Gadhafi would be held in Zintan until there was a government to hand him over to. The government is due to be formed within days.

"The rebels of Zintan announce that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi has been arrested along with three of his aides today," Thaelba said in remarks carried on Libyan television. "We hope at this historical moment that the future of Libya will be bright."

Gadhafi's father was killed a month ago on Sunday after being captured in his hometown of Sirte on the coast.

Pressure builds for fair trial for Gaddafi's heir

The international community's call increased Sunday for a fair trial for the son of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Saif al-Islam was captured on Saturday, and taken to the city of Zintan.

By News Wires (text)

AP - Moammar Gaddafi's former heir apparent Saif al-Islam was captured by revolutionary fighters in the southern desert Saturday 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.

Saif al-Islam, who has undergone a transformation from a voice of reform in an eccentric and reviled regime to one of Interpol's most-wanted now faces the prospect of trial before an international or Libyan court to answer for the alleged crimes of his late father's four-decade rule over the oil-rich North African nation.

Thunderous celebratory gunfire shook the Libyan capital of Tripoli and other cities after Libyan officials said Saif al-Islam, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, had been detained about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of the town of Obari in an area that borders Niger, Mali and Algeria.

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. “I am hopeful that the capture of Gaddafi's son is the beginning of a chapter of transparency and democracy and freedom,” Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib at a news conference in the mountain town of Zintan, where Saif al-Islam was taken after his capture.

In pictures: Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam captured
Dressed in a long brown robe and a turban, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, identified himself as “Abdelsalam” (a name that means ‘servant of peace’) at the time of his capture. (Photo: AFP)

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told The Associated Press that he will travel to Libya next week for talks with the country's transitional government on where the trial will take place. Ocampo said that while national governments have the first right to try their own citizens for war crimes, his primary goal was to ensure Saif al-Islam has a fair trial. “The good news is that Saif al-Islam is arrested, he is alive, and now he will face justice,” Ocampo said in an interview in The Hague. “Where and how, we will discuss it.”

Saif al-Islam's capture leaves only former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi wanted by the ICC, which indicted the two men along with Gaddafi in June for unleashing a campaign of murder and torture to suppress the uprising against the Gaddafi regime that broke out in mid-February. Protests inspired by the so-called Arab Spring sweeping the region soon escalated into a civil war, with NATO launching airstrikes under a U.N.-mandate to protect civilians.

Other photos and video clips showed Saif al-Islam wearing glasses and a beard, clothed in brown robes and a turban in the style of ethnic Tuaregs, a nomadic community that spans the desert border area of Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad and long fought for his father's regime. In some, he was bundled onto an airplane that apparently carried him to Zintan, 85 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli.

Libya's transitional government has struggled to consolidate control over the country and form a new government after months of violence and the refusal of several armed factions to lay down their weapons or join the national forces. International rights groups also have documented widespread prisoner abuse mainly aimed at former Gaddafi supporters, casting doubt on reconciliation efforts as the country tries to forge a democracy.

The emergence of Saif al-Islam as the only Gaddafi in custody to face justice posed a major test of the interim government's commitment to human rights and the rule of law. The murky circumstances surrounding the deaths of the reviled Libya leader and another son Muatassim on Oct. 20, and the decision to lay their bodies out for public viewing drew widespread criticism. The international community called on Libyan authorities to ensure Saif al-Islam was treated humanely. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who played an active role in his country's early stance on the side of the rebels who rose up against Gaddafi, alleged that Saif al-Islam was at least as much to blame for past atrocities against Libyans as his father. “His arrest is a real important moment. It's the real end of this war,” Levy said during an interview in London, adding his voice to calls for Saif al-Islam to be judged by an international court.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said Saif al-Islam should be held accountable for his actions but urged the Libyans to treat all prisoners in full accordance with international standards. “His capture and trial would be another step away from a 40-year dark chapter in Libyan history and help move the Libyan people toward the peaceful and democratic future they deserve,” the State Department said, appealing to the transitional government to cooperate with the ICC on the future trial of Saif al-Islam.

Human Rights Watch also called for Saif al-Islam to be promptly turned over to the International Criminal Court in a statement, citing the apparent killings in custody of his father and brother, Muatassim, on Oct. 20 as “particular cause for concern.”

It was a dramatic turnabout for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is the oldest of seven children of Moammar and Safiya Gaddafi. He had one older half brother, Mohammed. The British-educated son, who speaks fluent English, spent years touting himself as a liberalizing reformer in the autocratic regime, and he helped broker the agreement that saw Moammar Gaddafi renounce his weapons of mass destruction program and begin his journey back into the international fold after decades of isolation. But Saif al-Islam staunchly backed his father in his brutal crackdown on rebels in the regime's final days, warning of ‘rivers of blood' if demonstrators refused to accept government offers of reform.

He went underground after Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces in late August and was widely reported to have long been hiding in the besieged town of Bani Walid, issuing audio recordings to try to rally support for his father, but he escaped before it fell to revolutionary forces.

“This is the day of victory, this is the day of liberation, finally the son of the tyrant has been captured,” said Mohammed Ali, an engineer, as he celebrated on Tripoli's Martyrs' Square, formerly called Green Square when it was the site often used by Gaddafi for fiery speeches. “Now we are free, now we are free, God is Great.”

Revolutionary forces from the Zintan brigade said the arrest was made after midnight by fighters originally in the area to help with border protection when they got a tip that Saif al-Islam would try to flee the country. Ahmad Ammar Abdullah al-Zintani, who was at the scene, said a group of 15 fighters armed with pistols, heavy machine guns and a rocket-grenade launcher took up positions on two hills overlooking the road at 10 p.m. Friday, then moved to surround two cars entering the area below about three hours later.
“Saif was in the second car. When the first car came forward we surrounded them and they didn't resist. And then the second car came up they tried to escape from the right and they got stuck in the sand, and Saif came out with three others,'' al-Zintani said.

He also said Saif al-Islam's thumb, index and middle finger on his right hand had been injured in a NATO airstrike and wrapped in a cloth since they couldn't be treated medically. “We found out that he was trying to go to Niger hoping he could take over Libya again,'' al-Zintani said, echoing fears that Gaddafi's son could foment violence if he had remained in hiding. Others said Saif al-Islam was wearing traditional Tuareg clothing and looked tired when he was caught.

“He was suffering from malnutrition and anaemic because he had lived in the desert for a while. He was being protected by the al-Megarha tribe, which has been split in half over the revolution,'' Badawi Mohammed said. Members of the al-Megarha tribe include Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Bashir al-Tlayeb, who first announced the capture at a press conference in Tripoli, also claimed Saif al-Islam was caught with two aides who were trying to smuggle him into Niger, but the NTC's justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the detention was closer to the Algerian border and the convoy's destination was not known. Saif al-Islam was being held in Zintan but would be transported to Tripoli soon, according to al-Alagi. Libya's Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said the NTC had not taken an official position yet, but in his personal view, Saif al-Islam “is an outlaw and should be tried in front of the Libyan Court, by Libyan people and by Libyan justice.” Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called the arrest an important step forward as Libya tries to put its past behind it. “I welcome the Libyan authorities' commitment to ensure his detention and trial meet international standards,'' Hague said. ``His arrest will allow the Libyan people to move on to the challenge of rebuilding their country.”

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