13 November 2012

Libya Postpones Al-Mahmoudi Trial

Tunis — Kadhafi's ex-premier makes his first court appearance in a trial that many Libyans hope will bring long-awaited justice.

A Tripoli court on Monday (November 12th) decided to adjourn the trial of Moamer Kadhafi's last prime minister until December 10th.

Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi faced judges for the first time. The ex-premier is accused of ordering mass rape, murder and kidnappings, as well as embezzling public funds.

Earlier this year, al-Mahmoudi denied all the charges against him.

"I'm not guilty," he told reporters in July from prison. "I'm prepared to be tried by the Libyan people, and I'm keen on the appearance of truth. I'm sure about myself and innocence."

Some Libyan rights activists doubt that al-Mahmoudi can get a fair trial in the country. They say that the legal system is still in chaos in Libya.

"It's still early to talk about fair and just trials for defendants in Libya, especially the ousted regime's lackeys," lawyer Hichem Jaouadi said. "This may undermine their right to have a fair trial as per international law and human rights."

"Our greatest fear now is that revenge may replace justice because the Libyan government still needs more time to hold fair trials," he added.

Tunisia's decision to extradite al-Mahmoudi in June stirred a torrent of criticism from human rights groups and political fissures inside Tunisia. Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) chief Abdessatar Ben Moussa back then commented that the extradition "violated the most basic principles of human rights" and would "have negative repercussions at home and abroad".

Al-Mahmudi said in May that his extradition would mean "immediate execution".

"I'm not prepared to appear in court in Libya, but I'm prepared to answer all charges made against me in any country in the world and under any legal system that would provide fair trial guarantees and rights," he said.

But for many Libyans, the trial is a chance to revamp the country's legal system and deliver justice.

"There has been improvement in the legal system and security," said Khaled Turki, a resident of the eastern Libyan town of Tobruk. "Many are trying to present a different picture. However, with the trial of those defendants, we will see the true picture of the Libyan judiciary and know the extent of its right to try Libyans."

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