A row inside Tunisia’s ruling alliance over the extradition of Libya’s former prime minister took a fresh turn late on Monday after reports that he had suffered a beating in a Libyan jail.
Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who served as the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s last prime minister, had been beaten up on arriving back in Libya and hospitalized with a hemorrhage, his French lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi said.
However, Libyan officials were quick to dismiss the allegation.
“I completely deny reports that Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi was assaulted,” Libyan Deputy Minister of Justice Khalifa Ashur said.
Ceccaldi described how his client had been rushed out of Tunisia in the early hours of Sunday in what he described as a “kidnapping.”
“This is an extradition towards a rogue country by a government using gangster methods,” Ceccaldi said in Paris. “This government speaks of democracy and human rights, but in practice it constantly breaks them since in Tunisia, according to applicable law, it is the president who must sign an extradition decree.”
Tunisia’s post-revolution political alliance had already been plunged into crisis over the affair.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki is furious that Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali ordered al-Mahmoudi’s transfer to Libya without his consent.
Marzouki had always opposed the extradition, arguing that Libya’s new regime offered insufficient guarantees of a fair trial. However, when Jebali approved the move on Sunday, the president was in southern Tunisia for an official ceremony.
Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist, did not sign the extradition order and, according to his adviser, he only found out about al-Mahmoudi’s transfer through the media.
The presidency “considers this decision is illegal, all the more so because it has been done unilaterally and without consulting the president of the republic,” a statement from Marzouki’s office said late on Sunday.
However, the government hit back on Monday. There was nothing illegal with the extradition procedure, it insisted, adding Marzouki had been kept informed.
“As soon as the head of the government signed the extradition order, all relevant institutions were informed,” Tunisian Minister of Justice Nourredine B’Hiri said.
The virulence of Marzouki’s statement has exposed the uneasy nature of his alliance with Jebali’s an-Nahda party, which won Tunisia’s polls in October last year.
A power-sharing deal handed the prime minister’s job to an-Nahda, the presidency to Marzouki’s Congress for the Republic and the post of parliamentary speaker to Mustapha Ben Jaafar, who heads the leftist Ettakatol.