1 May 2014

Libya: Kadhafi Trial Delays Frustrate Libyans

Tripoli — Dozens of Moamer Kadhafi's affiliates will next appear at a Tripoli court on May 11th.

Just 22 of 37 former regime aides were in court on April 27th for a hearing.

The ousted Libyan dictator's sons Seif al-Islam and Saadi Kadhafi, his spy chief Abdullah Senussi, his former premiers Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi and Bouzid Dorda are among the high profile defendants.

When asked if he had a lawyer, Seif al-Islam said, "I have God." In response, the judge demanded that the bar association appoint an attorney to defend him.

Abdullah Senussi said he needed time to find a lawyer. "Libyans can't defend me because of their own circumstances," he told the court.

Seddik al-Sour of the Attorney-General's office said that all accused individuals would be given a chance to appoint lawyers and meet with them in private, since the trial couldn't take place otherwise.

Because it was deemed too dangerous to transfer some defendants to the capital, the court decided to use video links for the trial of some defendants.

"I think holding the trials of former regime's aides via video-links sends a strong message about the precarious security situation in the country," Libya al-Jadida journalist Meftah Belaid noted.

Journalist Suleiman Abou Azza noted one possible benefit of the video testimony plan.

A televised trial would help "appease the international community about the fate of Seif al-Islam Kadhafi and give it confidence in Libya's legal system and its fairness", he said.

Human Rights Watch said that holding the trial via satellite would turn it into a farce.

In response, Seddik al-Sour of the attorney-general's office said that witnesses in major cases, such as the Rafik Hariri assassination and Rwanda genocide trials, were heard via video.

"This is not a precedent, as it has already happened before," he noted.

Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi's lawyer refuted the Libyan prosecutor's assertion.

"There's nothing in the domestic laws of any state or in international laws stating that trials can be held via video-links," Leila Ben Debba said.

"This is an historical precedent. Punishment is personal; therefore, the defendant has to be before a judge who is present in person," al-Mahmudi's attorney said.

"Any judgement passed in absentia can be appealed," she noted.

For Libyans, the bigger issue is to see justice done swiftly.

"Three years have passed since the revolution and Seif al-Islam Kadhafi hasn't been tried in a single case. I think the trial is proceeding very slowly," a preparatory school teacher said. "A fair and just trial will establish security in Libya and ensure that the world will help us."

"Libya has suffered because of the delayed trials, and the people have become fed up with the failure to sentence them," engineering student Mohamed Fethi agreed.

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