Tunisia said on Thursday it had arrested and jailed former Libyan prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi
Mahmudi, one of the most senior aides to former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to have been detained, was sentenced to six months in prison for illegal entry, Tunisian justice ministry spokesman Kadhem Zine el Abidine said said.
Baghdadi was arrested on Wednesday and appeared before the state prosecutor in Tozeur, 430km south of Tunis when he was sentenced to six months in prison, “with immediate effect,” el Abidine said.
Tunisian Ministry of Justice spokesman Hichem Meddeb said Mahmudi was arrested along with two other men on Wednesday near Tamaghza on the Algerian border, traveling in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Algeria has frosty relations with Libya’s new rulers and has given refuge to Qaddafi’s wife and three of his children.
“They were arrested because they didn’t have a Tunisian entry stamp,” Meddeb said, adding that Mahmudi’s arrest was not connected to his former role in the Qaddafi regime.
“As far as we are concerned these are foreign citizens who entered Tunisia illegally,” said Meddeb, who was not able to say if the men had arrived from Algeria or were in fact headed there.
Tunisia, ruled by an interim administration since the ouster of Former Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January, officially recognized Libya’s national Transitional Council (NTC) only on Aug. 21 during the dying days of the Qaddafi regime.
The country had previously observed a studied neutrality towards the warring sides, while taking in an estimated 700,000 refugees fleeing the conflict.
On Sept. 7, another member of Qaddafi’s inner circle, General Khouildi Hamidi, was briefly detained at Tunis airport for illegal entry. He had been about to board a flight bound for Casablanca, Morocco.
A Tunis court later dismissed the proceedings, which could have seen him jailed for up to a year, Hamidi’s lawyer Abdelbasset Bouhouli said on Thursday.
He said prosecutors had 10 days during which they could lodge an appeal with a higher court.
Hamidi’s passport has been returned and at this stage he is not being prevented from traveling, the lawyer said. Hamidi was part of the 1969 coup which saw Qaddafi take power. Since the former strongman’s 42-year-old regime started collapsing, many senior officials in his entourage have defected or fled, often transiting through neighboring Tunisia.
Visiting Tunis at the beginning of this month, NTC No. 2 Mahmoud Jibril discussed security with Tunisian interim Tunisian Prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi and underlined the need for cooperation between the two countries.
The NTC has said it wants to try former regime officials in Libya.
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