Wed, Jan 04, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Tunisia demands guarantees of fair trial for ex-leader

AFP, Tripoli

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Monday demanded guarantees that former Libyan prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, will get a fair trial and not be harmed physically as conditions for handing him over.

“We will demand all guarantees for a fair trial and that there will be no physical harm” to al-Mahmudi, Marzouki said at a joint press conference with Libyan National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, when asked when Tunisia will hand over former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s prime minister.

“We have our values that we stand for. So we ask for your patience,” he added.

Al-Mahmudi is currently incarcerated in Mornaguia, near Tunis, and Amnesty International has urged Tunisia not to extradite him, saying he risks being subjected to “serious human rights violations.”

His defense team says that he fears for his life if he is returned to Libya, as he is the sole holder of Libyan state secrets since Qaddafi was killed on Oct. 20.

Tunisian courts have twice approved the Libyan request to extradite al-Mahmudi, who has been battling against it on the grounds that he has formally applied for refugee status in Tunisia.

However, his extradition can only takes place if Marzouki approves it.

The 70-year-old al-Mahmudi, prime minister until the final days of Qaddafi’s regime, was arrested on Sept. 21 on Tunisia’s southwestern border with Algeria and jailed for entering the country illegally.

According to his defense team, his extradition is not possible until the UN High Commissioner for Refugees rules on his application for political refugee status in Tunisia.

Al-Mahmudi’s extradition request concerns charges of inciting rape in the town of Zuwarah in northwestern Libya during the anti- Qaddafi revolution, according to his defense team.

Earlier on Monday, Marzouki, who is on his first state visit abroad since being sworn in as head of state in mid-December, told a meeting of civil society groups in Tripoli that Libya had the right to judge the former premier.

“As is our right to demand the extradition of [ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali to try him for crimes he committed, you also have the right to ask for the extradition of Mahmudi,” he said.

Ben Ali was toppled last January in a popular uprising triggered by the self-immolation of a Tunisian vegetable vendor.

His ouster triggered the Arab Spring movement which has seen the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and the killing of Qaddafi, while also paving the way for the removal of Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh and rocking the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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