Tunisia extradited former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s former prime minister to Libya, igniting a fierce row between Tunis’ president and prime minister, who disagreed over the move.
Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who fled Libya to neighboring Tunisia in September last year shortly after rebel fighters took the capital Tripoli, was extradited on Sunday, a spokesman for Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said.
However, the move sparked an angry reaction from the office of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who was in southern Tunisia on Sunday for commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the national army.
“The presidency of the Republic expresses its rejection of the decision of the head of government to extradite M. [al-]Mahmoudi and 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 said.
“The extradition decision, signed by the head of the Tunisian government, constitutes a clear violation of our country’s international commitments and those towards the UN,” the statement added.
“The president’s office holds the head of government responsible for anything that happens after the extradition” and for anything that subsequently befalls al-Mahmoudi.
Marzouki had opposed sending back al-Mahmoudi, 67, because he wanted guarantees he would receive a fair trial.
Lawyers and rights groups have long argued al-Mahmoudi would be executed if returned to Libya, where an uprising in February last year ended more than four decades of Qaddafi’s rule.
Al-Mahmoudi served as Qaddafi’s prime minister from 2006 until the final days of his regime and was arrested on Sept. 21 last year in Tunisia as he tried to flee to Algeria.
Al-Mahmoudi’s lawyer Mabrouk Kourchid said his client was flown to Libya on a private plane and condemned the extradition as a “state crime.”
He accused Tunisia of respecting “neither the law, nor humanitarian values, nor human rights” in the process.
His client had applied to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for political refugee status, but had not yet received an answer, he added.
“The High Commission had not yet given its response and he should not therefore have been extradited,” Kourchid said.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib insisted on Sunday the rights of the extradited minister would be protected.
“The Libyan government reiterates that the accused will receive good treatment in accordance with the teachings of our righteous religion and according to international standards of human rights,” he said.
He also expressed Libya’s “profound thanks and appreciation to the brotherly nation of Tunisia” for the extradition.
Al-Kib said al-Mahmoudi was being held in a prison under the supervision of the Libyan Ministry of Justice and the judiciary police.
The Tunisian government defended its decision, saying in a statement that a panel of experts sent by Tunis to Tripoli found all conditions were in place for a fair trial.
The case has further soured relations between Tunisia’s president and his prime minister, in an already tense government alliance.
The Tunisian prime minister’s an-Nahda party won the country’s first free polls in October last year — but not by a big enough margin to govern on its own.
Marzouki is a member of the Congress for the Republic, a nationalist party allied with an-Nahda.