Middle East

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to be tried with others by video link

The 23 defendants in court on Monday Image copyright AFP
Image caption Former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi was one of the defendants in court on Monday

A Libyan court has ruled that the late Colonel Gaddafi's son, and other Gaddafi officials being held outside Tripoli, can be tried via video-link.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and 36 former officials face a mass trial for their alleged role in trying to repress Libya's 2011 uprising.

The late dictator's son is still being held in the city of Zintan by the militia that captured him.

His father was killed on 20 October 2011, after an eight-month civil war.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Libya's former military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, also on trial, have been separately indicted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

The ICC ruled last year that Libya was able and willing to prosecute Mr al-Senussi, but it was still demanding the transfer of Mr Ghaddafi to the Hague.

The video-link decision, which only relates to the domestic case, will also apply to other defendants being held in the city of Misurata.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi rallied his father's supporters even as Tripoli was falling to rebels
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been in the custody of militia forces since November 2011

Officials claim the defendants cannot be transferred to the capital for security reasons, but the Zintan militia has previously refused requests to hand over Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

The country's many militia remain largely out of the control of central government and high-value prisoners are sometimes seen as valuable bargaining chips, correspondents say.

Monday's court session was mostly procedural and was adjourned until 27 April because only 23 defendants were present.

Much of the short hearing was spent discussing complaints by some of the lawyers that they do not have access to the case files - a claim the prosecution denied.

Some lawyers, family members and members of the press were turned away at the gate by court police.

There have also been moves by prosecutors for another of Gaddafi's seven sons, Saadi Gaddafi, to be tried as part of this group. He is also accused of trying to stifle the uprising against his father's rule.

However, his case must first be reviewed by a pre-trial chamber, which will decide if he can be tried with the rest, says Human Rights Watch in Tripoli.

Saad Gaddafi was recently extradited to Libya from Niger, where he fled in 2011. Libyan state TV recently broadcast footage showing him apologising to the nation from prison.

The 40-year-old is best known for a brief career in Italian football, cut short by a failed drugs test, as well as his former playboy lifestyle.