|Amnesty International had opposed the extradition, warning of the risk of "serious human rights violations" [EPA]
A Tunis appeals court has approved a request by the new Libyan authorities for the extradition of the country's former prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, according to court officials.
Mahmudi, who was former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's prime minister until the fall of Tripoli in August, had been held in Tunisia since September following his arrest near the Algerian border.
Mahmudi and human rights groups including Amnesty International had expressed concerns that the 70-year-old risked being subject to "serious human rights violations" if he was returned to Libya.
During the hearing, dozens of Libyans rallied outside the courthouse demanding the extradition of the man they called the "third tyrant of Libya" after Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam.
"The Libyan people have the right to apply the law to those who robbed the people," one banner read.
Mabrouk Kourchid, a defence lawyer, argued at the hearing that his team had not had time to review documents newly added to the case because of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
|Al-Mahmudi, left, was Libya's premier until the final weeks of Muammar Gaddafi's regime [AFP]
However a Tunisian judge refused to postpone the extradition hearing, with Mahmudi's team complaining that he had given no explanation for his decision.
"We are very disappointed by the judge's stance, which presages nothing good about his intentions," Kourchid said.
Mahmudi would be the first senior figure from the former Libyan regime who has fled the country to be returned to face trial.
Last week Kourchid said that his client feared for his life since Gaddafi's death on October 20.
"Mr Mahmudi thinks the time is not right, because the current period of chaos prevailing in Libya is dominated by vengeance," Kourchid said.
Amnesty International warned that "if he would be returned to Libya, he would at present face real risks, serious human rights violations, including torture ... extra-judicial execution and unfair trial," the group's north Africa spokesperson told the AFP press agency.
Mahmudi was arrested on September 21 on Tunisia's southwestern border with Algeria.
He was immediately sentenced to six months in jail for illegal entry into Algeria, a decision that was overturned on appeal, but Mahmudi has remained in detention at a prison near Tunis awaiting a ruling on the extradition request.
Tunisia in August recognised Libya's National Transitional Council as the country's new authority and has committed itself to co-operation on security issues.