International Criminal Court staff freed from Libyan prison after painstaking international negotiations

 

Zintan

Four staff members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), who had come on an official visit to meet Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libya’s most famous prisoner, and had ended up in jail themselves, were finally freed today after painstaking international negotiations.

Days ahead of  the country’s first elections for half-century, the release took place after senior government ministers, foreign ambassadors and the ICC president had driven down to Zintan in a convoy to pay homage to this medium sized town for its “leading role in the revolution”, the “upholding of democratic values” and “matchless sacrifice”.

It was after the ICC president Sang-Hyun Song had apologized profusely for any misdemeanours by his staff, making seven references to the achievements of Zintan, which he found “overwhelming”, that Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her three colleagues were freed.

Reiterating their generosity, the men who run Zintan laid on a celebration lunch for the freed prisoners and VIP delegation, to which, to show their openness, some members of the foreign media were invited.

Ms Taylor said she was “very happy” to be able to return to her family. The proceedings on a hot and dusty afternoon also reinforced, however, the image of power the Republic of Zintan has projected since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

Ms Taylor had been guilty of trying to smuggle incriminating documents and a camera to Saif al-Islam, according to Alejmi Al-Atari, the militia chief who captured him. Commander Al-Atari also stressed later that the fallen dictator’s son will not be transferred to the government in Tripoli, let alone the ICC in The Hague. “He will be tried here, in Zintan for crimes, for all his oppression. Zintan can take care of justice for the Libyan people.”

Until recently, the Zintan battalions, which have more than 15,000 men under arms, “took care” of the capital’s airport, which is steadily opening up to foreign and domestic flights and becoming the main transport hub of the country. It is nominally now under the control of the Tripoli administration, but the Zintani presence is still very much there to see.

The Zintanis had become “protectors” of the capital after proclaiming themselves to be the liberators of city. This was a claim hotly disputed by fighters from Misrata, Benghazi, as well as the Sons of Tripoli brigade. It had also led to a series of blood clashes on the streets leaving dozens dead and sowing deep animosity between the various groups of former revolutionary fighters.

Tripoli itself is relatively peaceful now with Zintan distracted by another conflict, this time with Al-Mashashiyah, a neighbouring community, in which around 120 have been killed and more than 500 injured so far.

Anti-aircraft artillery has used as a ground weapon, rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns have been in action in the fighting. The Libyan Human Rights Observatory has accused the Zintanis of using mustard gas, although there is little evidence to support this.

Omar Buseifi, a doctor who heads the emergency unit of the hospital at Gheryan, a town at the scene of the clashes stated that he had personally dealt with documenting around 80 deaths, most of them from the Mashashia community. He said: “There were lots of wounded people as well many of them serious, mainly men, but also some women and children as well. The fighting has calmed down a bit, but we don’t know when it will start again.”

The lull is partly due to the arrival of a force sent down from Tripoli with the head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Abderrahim al-Keib, demanding both parties stop “the killing of innocent people and making families homeless.”

But it took more than a week for the administration to send the troops. NTC spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said: “It was difficult for the army to intervene directly at the beginning out of fear of provoking further casualties.”

There is a general perception that the NTC does not “want to mess” with the Zintani fighters who are well equipped after helping themselves to heavy weaponry from the regime’s abandoned arms caches.

That certainly is the view of Abdelmohammed Ibadullah, a Mashashia elder. “The people in Tripoli are scared of Zintan… it is only two hours drive away from Tripoli and they don’t want to make them angry. In the meantime, it is we who are suffering.”

With five days to go before the first polls of ‘Free Libya’, the NTC is at pains to avoid confrontations in an already tense situation with repeated outbreaks of violence in the south, west and east of the country.

In one of the most serious eruptions, on Sunday evening, hundreds of protestors, many of them armed, sacked the offices of the election commission in Benghazi and Tobruk. Activists in the two eastern cities, where the Libyan uprising had started last year, are angry at what they see as unfair distribution of seats for the election.

The demonstrators carried banners condemning NTC leaders from the east of being traitors to the region. Computers, ballot boxes and electoral rolls were burnt in the streets with footage disseminated through the Internet.

Benghazi has also seen the appearance of gunmen in cars flying the black flag of al-Qa’ida, the bombing of the city’s US consulate and an ambush of a convoy transporting the British ambassador Dominic Asquith, in which protection officers were injured.

One man sees trouble ahead unless stronger figures take charge. “The government needs to work on building security first before working on elections. I will be boycotting what they call this election and so will many others,” said Mokhtar Lakhdar, who was, until two months ago, busy working on security at the airport, for the Zintan Brigade.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit