Africa

Libya: Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam 'will get fair trial'

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Media captionSaif al-Islam can be seen with a thick black beard and wearing traditional robes on a plane to Zintan

The prime minister of Libya has vowed a fair trial for Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam after his capture while trying to flee to Niger.

Abdurrahim al-Keib gave the assurance after visiting the northern town of Zintan, where he was being held after being detained in the desert.

He said he trusted militia in the town to take care of him.

Libyan prosecutors are due to begin his interrogation later on Sunday, a senior justice official told the BBC.

The official, Abdel Basset Zueraik, said that, according to Libyan law, questioning must begin within 48 hours of arrest. He would not confirm where the prisoner was being held but it could be either Zintan or Misrata.

Concerns have been raised about the possibility of ill-treatment, after Gaddafi himself was killed in custody.

Saif al-Islam, the last key Gaddafi family member to be seized or killed, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo plans to visit Libya next week for talks with the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) on where the trial will take place.

'Fair legal processes'

Britain's Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt suggested a joint trial could take place in Libya, which involved international observers, but said that was a matter for the ICC and Libyan authorities to discuss.

There are concerns that the powerful militia holding Saif al-Islam may use him as a bargaining chip in negotiations over the make-up of Mr Keib's new cabinet, to be announced in the coming days.

Zintan fighters said Saif al-Islam had been captured near the southern town of Obari along with several aides without a shot being fired as they tried to smuggle him out to neighbouring Niger. He was later flown to Zintan.

Image caption Saif al-Islam was captured as he tried to flee to Niger, officials say

A photograph widely circulated on Saturday shows him in custody, sitting by a bed and holding up three bandaged fingers as a guard looks on.

He told a Reuters reporter the injury to his fingers was an old one, caused by a Nato air strike, and he was otherwise in good health.

Speaking to reporters in Zintan, Mr Keib said he hoped his capture was "the beginning of a chapter of transparency and democracy and freedom."

"We assure Libyans and the world that Saif al-Islam will receive a fair trial... under fair legal processes which our own people were deprived of for the last 40 years," he said.

"Our brothers and sisters here [in Zintan] and the authorities are definitely trustworthy," he added. "We trust their ability to be able take care of this person."

The capture is a coup for the Zintan militia at a time of intense bargaining for influence in the new government, analysts say.

The efforts of the NTC to govern have been hampered by its lack of control over the militias which emerged during the fighting to overthrow Gaddafi.

'No justice system'

Mr Ocampo said that while national governments had the first right to try their own citizens for war crimes, his primary goal was to ensure Saif al-Islam had a fair trial.

"The good news is that Saif al-Islam is arrested, he is alive, and now he will face justice," he told AP in The Hague. "Where and how, we will discuss it."

Reuters news agency has quoted the NTC's interim Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Alagy, as saying Gaddafi's son will be tried inside Libya.

Jon Leyne, the BBC's Middle East correspondent, says ICC judges have realised it is unlikely he will be transferred to The Hague.

Allowing Saif al-Islam to be taken out of the country would be hugely unpopular and, quite possibly, his Zintan captors would refuse to hand him over, our correspondent adds.

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