THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Judges at the International Criminal Court have ordered Libyan authorities to immediately surrender slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi.
The written order published Thursday set up the latest legal showdown between the Hague-based court and Libyan authorities who say they plan to put Al-Senoussi on trial themselves.
The ICC has indicted Al-Senoussi on crimes against humanity charges for the murder and persecution of protesters in the early days of the uprising that eventually toppled Gadhafi in 2011.
Libyan authorities also are holding Gadhafi's son and one-time heir-apparent, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who also is wanted by the court.
Lawyers for Libya are challenging the ICC's right to try both men, saying that they are preparing them for trial on similar charges and other alleged offenses.
The ICC is a court of last resort, meaning it has jurisdiction in cases where a country is unable or unwilling to launch prosecutions.
The court also ordered officials to allow Al-Senoussi's lawyers to visit him in jail.
Defense lawyers for Al-Senoussi argue there is no way he can get a fair hearing in Libya and that he should be put on trial in The Hague.
They appealed to the court last month to speed up proceedings, claiming that Al-Senoussi's family had heard he was to be tried before a military tribunal and executed. Libya denied that claim.
The ICC first called on Libya to arrest and surrender Al-Senoussi in 2011.
If Libya refuses to extradite him, the court could report the country to the United Nations Security Council, which first ordered the ICC to launch an investigation in Libya.
Libya told the court last month it is preparing to file details by March 29 of its legal challenge to the ICC's right to try Al-Senoussi.
It added that, "In view of Libya's imminent supplemental submissions, there can be no justification for the immediate surrender of Mr. Al-Senoussi, given the lengthy legal proceedings and security arrangements that it would entail."
Separate from the ICC case, Al-Senoussi is accused of complicity in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, as well as the Abu Salim prison massacre of more than 1,200 inmates by Gadhafi's regime in 1996.
France has also lobbied for custody of Al-Senoussi. He was one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a passenger jet over Niger that killed all 170 people on board, including 54 French citizens.
Al-Senoussi was arrested in March 2012 at Mauritania's international airport disguised as a Tuareg chieftain in flowing robes and a turban. He was extradited to Libya last September.