Gaddafi's son denies ordering use of lethal force against civilians

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The Independent Online

As Libya’s rebel fighters move closer to Tripoli, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, denied that he and his father, ordered the army to use lethal force on civilians when protests broke out in the country earlier this year.

In a television interview with Russia’s state-funded news channel Russia Today, Colonel Gaddafi’s second-eldest son said soldiers had fired in self-defence when protesters approached military sites. “Nobody ordered...the guards were surprised by the attack of the people and they start fighting”, he said in the interview, which was posted online on Friday.

He also dismissed the ruling of the International Criminal Court, which on Monday issued arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Senussi for their role in killing, wounding and arresting hundreds of civilians in the first two weeks of Libya’s uprising.

“This court is a Mickey Mouse court...I’m not in the army, I’m not in the government, so for me to be responsible for killing people, it was a big joke,” he said.

Speaking in English, the usually clean-shaven Saif al-Islam, wore a long beard and had eschewed his usual western clothing for a traditional white robe and hat. Gaddafi’s second-eldest son holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics and until the recent uprising had been seen in the west as a reformer and likely successor to his father.

In the interview, Saif accused rebels and Western powers for fighting the Tripoli regime for economic gain. “This country is a piece of cake, rich, full of gas, oil and we have more than 100 billion dollars deposited abroad...The rebels are fighting with the Nato not because they are pro democracy or they like freedom… it’s everything about their own interests. They want to share the cake, they want to share this country.”

Earlier this week, his sister Aisha al-Gaddafi said that her father was conducting direct and indirect negotiations with the rebels. “We are ready to ally ourselves with the devil, with the rebel army”, she said in an interview broadcast Thursday night on France’s TV-2 television channel.

In recent weeks rebel fighters have made little progress on the frontlines outside Misrata and in the east of the country. Misrata is still under siege, surrounded on three sides by Gaddafi’s troops who fire rockets into the city most nights. Five were killed in attacks last week, according to medical council spokesman, Dr Khalid Abu Falgha, “they are targeting civilians every night this week in their homes. He is trying to kill as much as he can.”

More progress is being made in the Nafusa mountains on the country’s Western border with Tunisia where rebels are within 70km of Tripoli. On Wednesday, France confirmed that it was supplying fighters there with arms and ammunition.

Ahmed Al Muntaser, 25, a rebel fighter in Misrata, said he would continue fighting, dismissing Saif al-Islam. “He is a terrorist, a criminal. He doesn’t want his father and his family’s power just to extinguish.