Middle East

Trial of Kadhafi's last premier opens in Libya

A file picture taken on November 8, 2011 shows Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi (L), Libya's premier until the final weeks of Moamer Kadhafi's regime, putting his hands on his face not to be photographed upon arrival on at court in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

TRIPOLI: The trial of Moamer Kadhafi's last prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, accused of aiding the state to kill civilians and financial crimes, opened in a Libyan court on Monday.

A judge read out the charges against Mahmudi which included "abusing public funds" and "committing acts aiming to unjustly kill people" during the 2011 uprising that toppled Kadhafi.

The highest-ranking former regime official to go before Libyan judges, sat in a caged section of the courtroom and spoke only once during the one-hour hearing, saying "yes" when asked to confirm his presence.

Along with Seif al-Islam, the toppled dictator's most high-profile son, Mahmudi is one of the few remaining keepers of the many state secrets under Kadhafi, who was killed on October 20 last year.

A physician by training, Mahmudi was loyal to Kadhafi until the end, serving as premier from 2006 up to the final days of his regime, while also overseeing vast fortunes in the oil-rich nation.

Dressed in a traditional white robe, he sat alongside co-defendants, Al-Mabruk Zahmul and Amer Saleh Tirfas who managed a trade and investment company run by Seif al-Islam.

Mahmudi made a brief court appearance on November 12 but the start of the trial was adjourned at the request of the prosecution and defence lawyers due to the absence of his co-defendants.

Mahmudi, Zahmul and Tirfas allegedly funnelled 19 million euros ($25 million) to private accounts in Tunisia, with the money used for logistical support to former regime forces as they sought to crush last year's revolt.

At the request of the defence team, the court decided on Monday to create a panel of expert accountants to review irregular financial transactions and locate missing state funds.

The defence team also put forward a list of witnesses, which included former regime figures some of whom are jailed and others who are wanted by the new authorities.

A new hearing was set for January 14, 2013.

Mahmudi fled to neighbouring Tunisia in September last year shortly after rebels seized Tripoli and effectively put an end to more than four decades of iron-fisted Kadhafi rule.

He was extradited to Libya to face justice on June 24, despite warnings from rights groups that he could face the death penalty, and has protested his innocence to journalists visiting his prison.

"I am not guilty, not guilty, not guilty," he said at the time.





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