Tunisia frees former Libyan prime minister: lawyer

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 27, 2011 6:59 AM
Tunisia frees former Libyan prime minister: lawyer

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian court has freed former Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi despite an extradition request from Libyan authorities, his lawyer said on Thursday.

"The court ruled to free him from prison," Mabrouk Korchid told Reuters. Confirming the report, a judicial source said al-Mahmoudi was now a free man.

Mahmoudi fled Libya to neighboring Tunisia soon after the rule of Muammar Gaddafi collapsed in August and had gone on hunger strike in protest against his possible extradition.

In an interview this month with Reuters conducted via his lawyer, Mahmoudi said he was not involved in repression during Gaddafi's 42-year rule and wanted to cooperate with Libya's new interim government.

Al-Mahmoudi, Libyan prime minister from 2006, is the highest-ranking member of Gaddafi's administration now in detention. During the civil war this year, he gave televised briefings defending Gaddafi and accusing NATO of deliberately killing civilians.

Korchid had argued in court that Mahmoudi's life could be in danger if Tunisia returned him to Libya.

Gaddafi and his son Mo'tassim died last week after falling into the hands of transitional government fighters, prompting human rights groups to raise questions about justice in Libya.

A court ordered Mahmoudi's release in September after he was initially held for illegal entry, but he remained in detention because of the request by the post-Gaddafi authorities.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Andrew Hammond)