The son of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi missed a court hearing today after the militia holding him refused to send him to the capital, Tripoli, underscoring the weakness of the central government after the country’s civil war.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the most prominent figure of his father’s regime, appeared for a separate hearing instead in the western town of Zintan, where a militia has held him since the end of the war. The slim, bearded Gaddafi stood and sat at times in a cage inside the courtroom, wearing a blue prison uniform.
A judge there adjourned Mr Gaddafi’s trial until 12 December over a lack of evidence.
Al-Seddik al-Sur of the state prosecutor’s office told reporters today that authorities have asked for “justification” as to why Mr Gaddafi was not transferred from Zintan as planned. The Tripoli trial involves 38 former regime officials, including notorious spymaster Abdallah Senoussi, but only 36 were in attendance. In addition to Mr Gaddafi, another unidentified defendant was not present. The hearing was to present the prosecutors’ case to the judge who will then evaluate its merits and possibly order more investigations before setting the official charges. The charges are expected to revolve around the killings during the civil war in 2011.
A few dozen people protested outside the courthouse, mostly family members of those who died during the war as well as during the years of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the only member of the family to go on trial so far, faces charges from the Zintan militia that captured him as he was trying to flee south to Niger.
International institutions and rights groups have criticised the trial conditions. “Our main concern is he is still being held by a militia in Zintan outside the authority of the state,” said Hanan Salah, who follows the case for Human Rights Watch.
She said the situation for Mr Gaddafi was indicative of the shortcomings of justice in Libya, where due process is often not followed, lawyers have been intimidated and detention facilities are poorly supervised.