The trial of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of former Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi, is expected to begin in a few weeks, according to reports by the country's National Transitional Council (NTC).
Saif's father was killed by Libyan revolutionary forces in October, following an assault on his hometown of Sirte. In the ensuing nationwide melee that resulted, the father's proclaimed heir to his throne - his third son, Saif - was captured by military units as he tried to flee across the desert into neighboring Niger. His arrest came in the wake of warrants against his person, issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at Hague.
Prosecutors for the ICC now claim to have sufficient evidence against Saif, with "alleged criminal responsibility for the commission of murder and persecution of civilians as crimes against humanity from 15 February 2011 onwards throughout Libya in, inter alia, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata, through the Libyan State apparatus and Security Forces, in violation of article 7(l)(a) and (h) of the [Rome] Statute."
The trial is expected to focus on Saif's role as a key member of the previous regime in Libya. It could also coincide with the filing of a report into the circumstances surrounding the death of his father and the alleged sexual assaults that were committed on his person at the time.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, a global independent organisation working towards defending human rights victims, has spoken up in defence of Saif. They have requested the ICC prosecutor provide the defendant with access to a lawyer, in wake of reports that he will likely receive a death sentence.
The Libyan Interior Minister has agreed to appoint a lawyer in a bid to provide a fair trial. In the interim, Saif has been returned to the custody of the NTC, the administrative body currently responsible for the creation of a new Libyan government.
In another development, the military units involved in the capture of Saif al-Islam have reportedly refused requests from the ICC to surrender their prisoner. To add to the ICC's woes, an estimated 41 Libyans accused of helping Moammar Gadhafi fight the revolt have been given a reprieve, to seek the help of defence panel, according to Libyan news agency (LANA) reports on Sunday.
"The decision (to postpone) was made in the wake of listening to the pleadings of the defense panel that argued that this military court is not a competent entity and called for referring the case to the civil judiciary," said LANA on its Web site.
Intisar al-Agili, a Benghazi representative of the ruling National Transitional Council, reportedly told Reuters the trial for 41 accused Libyans had been postponed to February 15. Meanwhile, the Libyan NTC finds itself at loggerheads with the ICC, in the tussle for trial execution of the legal heir to Libyan regime.
The NTC opines it would be in a better position to hear the allegations of both parties (the regime's pro-activists and rebels) and then deliver a proper judgment on the case.
The fate of Saif and his 41 Libyan activists hangs in balance, as the ICC strives hard to bring peace to civil-war stricken Libya.
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