Tunisia to extradite former Gaddafi PM
Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi to be handed over to Libya within "days or weeks", Tunisia's justice minister announces.
Last Modified: 22 May 2012 21:31
A Tunisian court sentenced Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to six months in jail for illegally entering the country [Reuters]

Tunisia will extradite former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's prime minister to Libya and the handover could take place in "days or weeks", Noureddine Bouheiri, Tunisia's justice minister, has said.

A Tunisian court dropped charges of illegally entering the country against Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi in February but he has remained in jail since last year, pending a decision on his extradition to Libya.

"The government has decided to hand over Mahmoudi and all that remains is the completion of some organisational issues," Bouheiri told Reuters news agency in an interview.

Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Tripoli, said the extradition was one of the issues agreed upon during a recent visit by Abdurrahim el-Keib, Libya's current prime minister, to his Tunisian counterpart, Hamadi Jebali.

"We also know that as a result of that visit, Libya is going to pay Tunisia a sum of $100m and another $100m as an interest-free loan," our correspondent said.

"Mahmoudi's lawyer, Bechir Essid, said his client was on a hunger strike in protest against his extradition to his home country, and stressed that Mahmoudi would be tortured and executed by the ruling Libyan government."

'Fair trial'

Libyan authorities have assured Tunisia that Mahmoudi will receive a fair trial.

"The Tunisian authorities show that they do not respect human rights and have done away with humanitarian principles," said Essid, noting that there was no guarantee for Mahmoudi's safety given the current state of insecurity in Libya.

Libya has been clamouring for the repatriation of Mahmoudi to answer for crimes it says he committed as the final prime minister under Gaddafi.

Officials from the former regime have not fared well in the hands of the rebels, with Gaddafi and one of his sons executed on capture last year.

In January, 15 Tunisian and international human rights groups - including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch - signed a statement opposing Mahmoudi's extradition, saying he risked death or torture if he was returned to Libya.

A Tunisian court had ruled in November that Mahmoudi should be extradited, but Tunisian President Moncef al-Marzouki later said the handover would not take place until the situation in Libya had stabilised and he could be guaranteed a fair trial after Gaddafi himself was killed by rebels.

That left Mahmoudi in an unusual position, in which he was acquitted of charges in Tunisia but remained in custody pending agreement with the Libyan government over his fate.

Asked when the handover might happen, Bouheiri said: "This could be within days or weeks or perhaps longer... Our Libyan brothers have pledged to respect Mahmoudi physically and emotionally and to give him a fair trial."

Mahmoudi was for years a powerful figure inside Gaddafi's ruling elite, though he clashed repeatedly behind the scenes with Saif al-Islam, one of the fallen Libyan leader's sons who has since also been captured.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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