Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico 'stops entry' of Libya's Saadi Gaddafi

Saadi Gaddafi in 2010
Image caption Saadi Gaddafi, 38, crossed the border into Niger in a convoy of vehicles in September

The Mexican authorities say they have stopped a plot by a criminal gang organisation to smuggle one of the sons of Libya's ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi into the country.

Saadi Gaddafi has been under house arrest in the West African state of Niger since he fled Libya in September.

His lawyer, Nick Kaufman, denied Mr Gaddafi had ever tried to flout a UN travel ban and escape.

Mexican officials say the plot came to light through intelligence reports.

It involved buying a number of properties in Mexico, including one near the resort of Puerto Vallarta, using false names and documents, they said.

Several people have been arrested.

Safe houses

Mexican Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said the plan involved a criminal ring "of international dimensions," but it was uncovered in September before it could be carried out.

The ring involved people from several different countries, including Mexico, Denmark and Canada, Mr Poire told a news conference in Mexico City.

On 14 September - eight days after the Mexican plot was uncovered - Niger said Mr Gaddafi, 38, arrived in the capital, Niamey.

He was reported to have been flown in on a military transport plane from the town of Agadez in the north of the country.

Mr Kaufman said his client was "grateful for the humanitarian protection afforded him by the Niger authorities" and "would continue to respect the United Nations sanctions" on him until they were lifted or his passport was returned.

'Red notice'

"There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to the allegation that, since fleeing Libya where his life was in grave danger, Saadi Gaddafi has attempted to flout the restrictive measures placed on him by the international community," he told the BBC.

On 29 September, Interpol issued a "red notice" for the arrest of Saadi Gaddafi, requiring member states to arrest him if he was on their territory.

The international police agency says he is wanted on allegations of misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.

Mr Gaddafi, who used to play football in Italy's Serie A, is also subject to a travel ban and asset freeze under a UN Security Council resolution passed earlier this year.

In March, in the first few weeks of the Libyan uprising against Col Gaddafi, a veteran Libyan soldier told the BBC that Saadi Gaddafi came to the barracks in the eastern city of Benghazi and gave orders to fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Mr Gaddafi denied the allegations.

At the beginning of September, Mr Gaddafi reportedly made contact with the interim authorities, offering to negotiate an end to fighting in Libya. Nothing came of the offer.

Mr Poire said the plot appeared to involve using private flights to move Mr Gaddafi and members of his family to Mexico's Pacific coast.

The plotters bought properties in several parts of the country, he said, including Bahia de Banderas, near the popular resort of Puerto Vallarta.

Image caption Residents in Tripoli have been protesters against the presence of armed militias in the city

Several people were arrested on 10 and 11 November. They include a Canadian woman named as Cynthia Vanier.

She "was the direct contact with the Gaddafi family and the leader of the group, and presumably was the person in charge of the finances of the operation," Mr Poire said.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have been protesting in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, against former rebels who helped liberate the city from Col Gaddafi.

The heavily armed militias now control large swathes of the city and rival groups have clashed repeatedly.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Tripoli says adults and children carrying flags and olive branches chanted "no to weapons" and held placards reading: "Don't shoot our future."

In a city with no proper police force, awash with weapons, there is anger at increasing lawlessness, she says.

Also on Wednesday, judges and lawyers demonstrated after armed militiamen tried to force the prosecutor to sign release papers for imprisoned colleagues.

Libya's New Defence Minister Osama al Juwali told the BBC that plans were being made to integrate former rebels into new security forces.

But he said some were like children who had been given a toy and now didn't want to give it up.

The head of Tripoli's council has said fighters have until the end of the month to hand over their weapons to the authorities.

The interim government has promised that the entire city will be disarmed, Abdul Rafik Bu Hajjar said.

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