Gaddafi Heir Apparent Released from Jail a Year After Being Sentenced to Death

gaddafi Seif al-Islam
AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the most prominent son of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has been released from his detention in Libya and is living peacefully in the city of Zintan, his attorney has confirmed.

The younger Gaddafi, attorney Karim Khan confirmed to France24, “was given his liberty on April 12, 2016” through an amnesty declaration by the internationally-recognized government of Libya stationed in Tobruk. Khan called the release “in accordance with Libyan law,” though he did not specify which law or rival government group’s laws the release abided by.

The government of Tobruk overrode a sentence by the Libyan Dawn government of Tripoli to call for the younger Gaddafi’s release. While Libyan Dawn controls the capital, many of the nation’s various factions do not recognize it as a legitimate government. The Zintan rebel group that had held Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for the past five years had refused to hand him over to the Libyan Dawn group after they sentenced him to death for war crimes, citing security concerns in Tripoli.

Corroborating the lawyer’s account, the UK Telegraph has published an image of a document the newspaper claims proves the passage of the amnesty law that has assured Saif al-Islam’s release.

The Tripoli government sentenced Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to death by firing squad in July 2015, finding him guilty of various war crimes during the uprising that overthrew the elder Gaddafi in 2011. Tripoli sentenced him in absentia while he was in Zintan’s custody, and he was never released to the Tripoli government.

International human rights organizations condemned the Tripoli trial and sentencing as not complying with international norms of due process, calling for the sentence to be overturned. This does not mean that Saif al-Islam is not still suspected of having committed grave human rights violations — he is still wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. Khan, his attorney, told France24 that he will petition the ICC, claiming double jeopardy if they pursue a case against him because he has already been sentenced in Libya.

As the Tripoli trial is widely considered invalid, it is uncertain whether claiming double jeopardy will keep Saif al-Islam from facing trial on an international stage for crimes against humanity.

In 2011, Saif al-Islam told media he was ready to kill all rebels looking to overthrow his father. He also warned international observers to stay out of Libya. “But I tell you: you are going to lose. We will win. And we are not afraid of the American fleet, NATO, France, Europe. This is our country,” he said in March 2011. “We are here, we will die here.”

“The Libyan people, we will never ever welcome NATO, we will never ever welcome Americans here. Libya is not a piece of cake. We are not a Mickey Mouse,” he continued, arguing that the various factions looking to topple Gaddafi “do not represent anybody.”

After the Gaddafi storming of the port city of Benghazi in 2011, Gaddafi partially declared victory. “Our forces are close to Benghazi. Whatever decision is taken [with respect to the no-fly zone], it will be too late,” he asserted.

Ultimately, rebel forces took over Tripoli and stormed Gaddafi’s palace, executing him and looting his primary residency. Saif al-Islam was captured shortly thereafter by the Zintan group.

Of the living Gaddafi siblings, Saif al-Islam is the most prominent but not the only one in profound legal trouble. Saadi Gaddafi, a soccer player, was charged with killing a fellow football player in 2015 by the same Libyan Dawn party in Tripoli. His trial may eventually be rendered void, however, because video has surfaced of police officers beating and abusing him.


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