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Libya wrestles with ICC over right to try Kadhafi son

Mohamed Youssef (L), Xavier-Jean Keita (C) and Melinda Taylor (R), representatives of the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence, talk in the International Criminal Court (ICC) before a public hearing on Libya's challenge to the admissibility of the case against Saif Al-Islam, son of toppled long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi, in The Hague, October 9, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

THE HAGUE: Libya has enough evidence to charge Moamer Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam with crimes against humanity, lawyers told the International Criminal Court on Tuesday amid a dispute over where he should face justice.

The ICC wants Seif, the only son of the slain Libyan leader in custody, to be tried in The Hague, but Libya's post-revolutionary authorities insist he should stand trial in his home country.

A probe "has already produced considerable results," Libya lawyer Philippe Sands told a two-day hearing on Seif's fate. "There is a wide range of evidence that will constitute an indictment the same as that presented by the ICC's prosecutor."

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Seif, 40, and Kadhafi's former spymaster Abdullah Senussi, 63, in June 2011 for crimes against humanity allegedly committed while trying to crush the revolt against the veteran leader's iron-fisted rule.

ICC defence lawyers argued that Seif would not get a fair trial in Libya, where he could face the death penalty.

Libya's bid and arguments to have the case against Seif quashed in the Hague-based court was "like a house of cards," said Melinda Taylor, representing Seif. "When examined in detail it collapses upon itself," she said.

Taylor -- who spent nearly a month in detention after she and three other members of a defence team were arrested in Libya after visiting Seif in June -- accused Libya's lawyers of misleading the ICC, for instance by saying a possible death sentence for Kadhafi could be commuted.

Australian lawyer Taylor cited a law passed by Libya's post-revolutionary National Transitional Council which said "no child of Kadhafi will ever benefit from leniency."

If convicted, "Mr Kadhafi will be executed by hanging," Taylor told judges.

But ICC prosecutors said Libya should be given more time for the case.

"We see that the case being presented appears to be on track," prosecutor Sara Criscitelli told the ICC's three-judge bench.

"We believe that Libya is interested in prosecuting this offender... we are confident that Libya needs a bit more time to sort itself out."

Evidence against Seif includes how he allegedly told security forces during a television broadcast to use violence shortly after the outbreak of the uprising in mid-February last year, Libya's lawyer Sands said.

Tripoli also alleges Seif ordered the use of live rounds against civilian demonstrators and that he recruited Pakistani mercenaries to put down the revolt.

Seif has been in custody in the northwestern Libyan hilltown of Zintan since his arrest last November in the wake of the uprising that ended his father's over 40-year rule.

In a surprise move, Senussi was extradited to Libya last month from Mauritania, where he was arrested in March as he tried to enter the country using a Malian passport under a different name.

"The government of Libya is committed to carrying out a fair trial for any ex-Kadhafi government official," Tripoli's lawyer Ahmed al-Jehani told the ICC, also not ruling out future cooperation with the ICC in the case.

But, Jehani said, this was a "complicated process and Libya needed more time" to put Seif and other Kadhafi loyalists on trial, something that would contribute to vital reconciliation in the North African nation.

Libyan officials had asked in May for the court to quash a surrender request and throw out the case, saying they had the means to put Seif on trial -- but until now had not managed to do so.

A warrant for the late Libyan strongman was scrapped after Kadhafi was killed by rebel forces on October 20 last year.

In a sign of the challenges facing the new Libyan order, premier Mustafa Abu Shagur was dismissed on Sunday after failing to form a government, including naming a justice minister.

Under Libya's transition plan, a new government will be in power for about a year only, until fresh elections on the basis of a new constitution are held.

 

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