Gaddafi's ex-spy chief handed back to Libya

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 05, 2012 6:21 AM
Gaddafi's ex-spy chief handed back to Libya

By Ali Shuaib

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's former spy chief was taken into Libyan government custody on Wednesday after being extradited by Mauritania to face charges of crimes against humanity, officials said.

Abdullah al-Senussi, one of the most feared members of Gaddafi's regime before rebels toppled it last year, was captured in the West African state in March, triggering a tug of war between Libya, France and the International Criminal Court for his extradition.

"The Libyan government has received Gaddafi's right hand man," Prime Minister Abderrahim al-Keib said.

"I want to take the opportunity to say that Libya will guarantee a fair trial for Senussi that will respect international legal standards," he said, urging other countries to follow suit and hand over Gaddafi's associates.

A heavily bearded Senussi, recognizable from his characteristic tightly curled hair, was shown in a press photograph getting out of a helicopter in Libya. Smiling slightly, a soldier stood behind him, steadying him on the steps.

Chief of Army staff Yusuf al-Mangoush told reporters that he travelled on Tuesday night to Mauritania to escort Senussi back on Wednesday.

"Abdullah Senussi is in good health and comfortable when we brought him to Libya, " he said.

His extradition came after a high-level Libyan delegation, including the chief of staff and the justice minister, visited Mauritania on Tuesday and, a Mauritanian government source told Reuters, gave guarantees concerning Senussi.

It was not clear if there was a court decision sanctioning the extradition and the source declined to specify the nature of the guarantees.


Senussi was arrested six months ago after arriving with a falsified Malian passport on a flight to the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, from Morocco. Mauritania initially planned to put him on trial for illegal entry - a move that threatened to delay efforts to have him face international justice.

A spokesman for the ICC, which wants to try Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, said it had received no information about the handover.

In its warrant for Senussi's arrest, the Hague-based ICC said he had used his position of command to have attacks carried out against opponents of Gaddafi, who was hunted down and killed by rebels after his ouster in August last year.

France wants to try Senussi in connection with a 1989 airliner bombing over Niger in which 54 of its nationals died.

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Senussi has also been linked to the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland of U.S. passenger plane that killed 270 people. Diplomatic sources have said the United States was keen to question him about that.

Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, is to go on trial in Libya this month, a government source said in August, in what would be the most high-profile prosecution of a figure from the late dictator's 42 years in power.

Libya's new rulers, who aim to draw up a democratic constitution, are keen to try Gaddafi's family members and loyalists at home. But human rights activists worry that a weak central government and a relative lack of rule of law mean legal proceedings will not meet international standards.

Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity during the uprising that brought down his father.

(Additional reporting by Kissima Diagana in; Nouakchott, Bate Felix in Dakar and Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Jon Hemming and Robin Pomeroy)