By Thomas Escritt
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Libya can guarantee the son of its former dictator a fair trial, Libyan government lawyers said on Tuesday at a hearing on whether Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should face justice at home or at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Accusations by ICC defense lawyers acting for Muammar Gaddafi's son that he was physically mistreated by Libyan authorities are false, Philippe Sands, counsel for the Libyan government, told the first day of the two-day hearing at the ICC in the Hague.
ICC judges will rule on whether Libya is capable of properly trying the man once seen as Gaddafi's heir-apparent or whether it should extradite him to the Hague. They have no way of enforcing their decision.
British-educated Saif al-Islam was caught in the Libyan desert last November and the international court's prosecutor has charged him with crimes against humanity committed during the uprising that toppled his father.
An ICC-appointed defense lawyer who was detained in Libya along with three colleagues for almost a month told reporters in July that her experience showed the dictator's son could not get a fair trial in his home country.
The lawyer, Melinda Taylor, will have an opportunity to speak later in the hearing.
But an ICC prosecution lawyer today said she was content with Libya's investigation, saying it covered more allegations than the ICC's own.
"The job of the prosecutor is not to push to the front and elbow aside states which are genuinely willing and able to prosecute crimes," said ICC lawyer Sara Criscitelli.
Libya had said it would put Saif al-Islam on trial in September but later said this would be delayed by five months in order to include information obtained from the interrogation of former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Libya needs time to carry out a thorough investigation of Saif al-Islam's alleged crimes in order to try him fairly, Sands said.
"We are aware from many other parts of the world what such a rushed trial can lead to," he said.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; editing by Jason Webb)