Saif al-Islam, General Gaddafi's son and likely successor until the family was toppled from power during Libya's Arab Spring, appeared in court accused of harming state security and trying to escape custody.
He gave a thumbs up sign to reporters when asked if he was in good health but said little during the 15-minute hearing in Zintan.
Gaddafi has been held in solitary confinement in Zintan, about 90 miles from Tripoli, by a militia known as Abu Bakr al-Sadek since his capture in November 2011. The militia has refused to hand him over to either the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the Tripoli government for trial.
Khaled al-Zintani, a spokesman for the town council in Zintan, said that were he to be handed over to the government there would be a serious risk that he would either escape or be killed.
“There is zero control in the capital,” he said. “Weapons are in everyone's hands and prison breaks are recurrent. Zintan is the safest place.
”There are parties who want to silence him because if he talked he will reveal the information that would stain them and would uncover corruption of those who cooperated with the regime at the last decade.“
During the brief court appearance the judge informed Gaddafi that two local volunteer lawyers had been appointed to represent him. ”Fine,“ he replied.
He faces charges of harming state security, attempting to escape prison, and insulting Libya's new flag. Separately he is wanted by the ICC for the murder and persecution of protestors during the uprising that ended his family's rule.
Some of the charges he faces in Zintan follow a meeting with members of the ICC in June last year in which the delegation was accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him. A pen with a camera in it was among the items of evidence presented to the hearing.
However, his detention has been described by John Jones, his British lawyer, as Libya's equivalent of Guantanamo Bay.
According to documents filed by defense lawyers at the ICC, Gaddafi wants to be tried for alleged war crimes in the Netherlands, claiming that a trial in Libya would be tantamount to murder. ”There will certainly be no justice in the case if the prosecution is based on evidence from torture,“ he said. ”I am not afraid to die, but if you execute me after such a trial, you should just call it murder.“