Written by RLAdmin2
18 Sep 2013 6:59 pm
Gaddafi’s son on trial as Tripoli defies Hague
Saif alIslam: Faces charges over alleged war crimes. Picture: Getty
Published on the 18 September
LIBYA comes face to face with its past this week as Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, and his former spy chief Abdullah Senussi, go on trial for war crimes.
The case promises to be the most controversial war crimes trial since Saddam Hussein was hanged in Iraq a decade ago; it is being held with the country in danger of fragmenting amid unprecedented militia violence, and in the teeth of opposition from the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
But justice officials say it is time the Libyan people heard the truth about the regime that terrorised them for decades. Security will be tight around the Tripoli district courthouse on Thursday when prosecutors outline a case so extensive the charge sheet runs to four pages.
Together, the men represent the two halves of the regime of Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels two years ago. Senussi, 62, represents the dark side: marriage to Gaddafi’s sister-in-law saw him trusted enough to be promoted to become the dictator’s intelligence chief.
It was Senussi who, prosecutors allege, presided over an orgy of repression, torture and murder as head of Gaddafi’s secret police. He is accused of being present at the massacre of 1,270 prisoners machine-gunned in a compound of Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salem prison in 1996.
One former prisoner, who asked not to be named, told The Scotsman: “In the morning, they came and took guys away. Then later, we heard machine guns. There were shouts and cries outside. There was so much firing. Nobody knew what was happening, but we could guess.”
Senussi is also accused of masterminding a terror campaign that stretched across the globe, including the Lockerbie bombing and the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, both cases still of interest to British police.
Until the Arab Spring, Saif, 41, portrayed himself as a reformer, talking in the West of modernising Libya and introducing democracy. But when rebellion broke out in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata in February 2011, he allegedly sided with his father in directing its oppression.
This year, the International Criminal Court, which has indicted both men for war crimes and crimes against humanity, ruled Libya had not demonstrated it had the capacity to hold a fair trial. Tripoli’s decision to press ahead is likely to see ICC judges complain next month to the United Nations Security Council.