One of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, who fled as his father’s regime crumbled in 2011 and who has been under house arrest in Niger ever since, has been extradited to Libya.
A Libyan official said he arrived in the early hours of this morning at Tripoli airport and was transferred to a prison in the capital. The authorities said he would be treated “in accordance with international law”.
Shortly after the news broke, photographs circulated on social media showing Saadi in a blue prison uniform while Libyan guards were shaving his hair and beard.
Saadi was known for his love of professional football and a playboy lifestyle. His brief career in Italian football ended after a failed drug test. He headed Libya’s Football Federation and was also the former head of the country’s special forces.
Like most Gaddafi loyalists and ex-regime officials, Saadi is wanted for his role in suppressing protests against his father’s rule and the killing of protesters. But unlike his brother Saif al-Islam, who was groomed to be Gaddafi’s successor, Saadi is not sought by the International Criminal Court. Saif al-Islam is held by a militia in the western Libyan town of Zintan, which refuses to hand him over to the central government for trial.
With the extradition, Saadi joins Saif al-Islam as the only two of Gaddafi’s eight children currently in Libya. At least three of Gaddafi’s other sons were killed during the uprising while the rest of the children sought asylum in neighbouring Algeria, along with Gaddafi’s wife and Saadi’s mother, Safiya.
The mother, a sister and two brothers were granted asylum in Oman in 2012. Niger had previously refused to comply with Libyan requests for Saadi, saying that once he was back home, he might be killed.
There have been tensions between the two African nations and while Libya has criticised the presence of Gaddafi loyalists in Niger, Niger has expressed concern about “the terrorist threat” posed by the lack of security near its border with Libya.
The rule of law is still weak in Libya after decades of Gaddafi’s reign. Courts are still paralysed and security remains tenuous as unruly militias proliferate. The state, however, relies heavily on the militias to serve as security forces since the police and military remain a shambles.
Successive governments have been too weak to either secure Saif al-Islam’s imprisonment in the capital or put pressure on the Zintan militia to hand him over.
The ICC has charged Saif al-Islam with murder and persecution of civilians.