TRIPOLI: Moammar Gadhafi’s former prime minister went on trial Monday charged with corruption and ordering mass rape during the war that toppled the Libyan dictator.
Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi could face life in jail or execution if convicted. He served as the ousted Libyan leader’s prime minister from 2006 until he fled to neighboring Tunisia in August last year around the time rebel fighters took Tripoli.
Libya’s new leaders have been keen to try leading figures from the Gadhafi era inside Libya as a matter of national pride and to show state institutions are up to the job.
But human rights groups have questioned whether former officials can get a fair trial in a country where bitterness over Gadhafi’s rule runs deep and the militia groups that helped unseat him have influence.
Under heavy security, Mahmoudi appeared in the caged dock looking healthy and dressed in traditional Libyan clothing.
The judge postponed the hearing to Dec. 10 to give both sides more time to review documents.
Tunisia extradited Mahmoudi in June, making him the first senior Gadhafi official to be returned for trial under Libya’s transitional leadership.
Mahmoudi’s lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchid, said in September he had not been allowed to see his client for long periods. He added he had heard the former premier had suffered a nervous breakdown after Tunisia’s justice minister told him an extradition was imminent.
In September, former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi became the second former Gadhafi official to be extradited back to Libya after being captured in Mauritania while holding a false passport.
A Libyan judge suspended the trial of senior Gadhafi-era intelligence official Buzeid Dorda in September after his defense lawyer said the proceedings were unconstitutional.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 13, 2012, on page 9.