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Profile: Mustafa Abdel Jalil
Soft-spoken former Gaddafi justice minister emerges as leader of Libyan opposition movement.
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2011 03:05
Mustafa Abdel Jalil has a tough task ahead in post-Gaddafi Libya [Reuters]

Immediately after the outbreak of "February 17 revolution" in the eastern part of the country, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi turned to his justice minister for help.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the soft-spoken justice minister in Gaddafi's cabinet, known for his no-nonsense attitude, was dispatched to the eastern city of Benghazi to negotiate release of hostages taken by the rebels.

Jalil rushed to Benghazi as Libyan leader's emissary but resigned on February 21 after seeing the brutal security crackdown on civilians.

He was the first senior Gaddafi official to resign and gave the initial booster dose to the nascent rebellion started by frustrated youth of this oil-rich North African country.

The Gaddafi government even placed a bounty of 800,000 dinars, roughly $700,000, for his capture.

Despite past links with Gaddafi regime, he enjoys the respect of broad swaths of the rebels for criticism, while minister, of the tight control of security forces.

The rebels found faith in him owing to his experience and clean image, and soon Jalil emerged as the leader of the opposition movement.

When the Libyan opposition founded the National Transitional Council in March, Jalil became its chairman.

Diverse opposition

On Monday Jalil hailed the end of the four-decade Gaddafi era. The NTC chief said he hoped Gaddafi, who faces an arrest warrant issued by the ICC, would be "captured alive so that he will be given a fair trial”.

He also asked fighters to respect the law and not take violent revenge on members of Gaddafi regime, adding that he could resign in face of indiscipline among rebels.

NTC chief holds presser on eve of Tripoli capture

Jalil has been able to lead the diverse opposition groups as a team. He dissolved the NTC executive committee after revolutionary commander Abdel Fattah Younes was killed on July 28.

Many said a section of rebels killed the general, who had served as Gaddafi's interior minister before defecting, but some pointed fingers at Gaddafi.

Jalil has taken moderate position on issues unlike many of the rebel fighters.

Many experts fear it would be tough task to handle post-Gaddafi Libya as rebels have strong allegiance to their tribal roots, and they have been united by one cause, the ouster of Libyan leader.

But he has shown maturity in his leadership and emphasised on democracy and rule of law.

"We are at the start of a new period in which we will seek to build a state on the same principles that we have committed to and they are freedom, democracy, equality and transparency with moderate Islamic framework," he said after rebels stormed Tripoli.

On July 25, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Jalil said Gadhafi and his family could remain in Libya as part of a political solution to the conflict, provided they gave up power.

The NTC chairman called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya on March 9.

And on March 19, NATO began bombing Libya just hours after a UN resolution was passed, with bombers from France, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries joining shortly afterwards.

Seen as a reformer

Jalil graduated from university of Libya in 1975 and started his career as lawyer from eastern Libyan town of Bayda before being appointed judge in 1978.

He was an upright judge and ruled many cases against the Gaddafi regime.

Jalil was appointed justice minister in 2007 but resigned in 2010 after Gaddafi government failed to release political prisoners, but his resignation was rejected ostensibly on the insistence of Saif al-Islam.

According to a WikiLeaks cable, Jalil was seen as a reformer by Americans.

American officials had identified Jalil as one of Gaddafi government's most outspoken critics and portrayed him as "fair and well-respected in State Department cables".

Last year, rights body Human Rights Watch praised Jalil for his stance on political prisoners.

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