Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have ordered Libyan authorities to immediately to hand over Abdullah al-Senussi, deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's former intelligence chief.
The written order published on Thursday sets up the latest legal showdown between the Hague-based court and Libyan authorities, who say they plan to put Senussi on trial themselves.
The ICC has indicted Senussi on crimes against humanity charges for the murder and persecution of protesters in the early days of the uprising that eventually toppled Gaddafi in 2011.
"Libya remains under obligation to comply with the surrender request," the judges said in their statement. They would decide later how to respond if the North African state continues to hold Senussi, the judges added. The court has
the power to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
"The ICC has ordered an immediate halt to Libya's unseemly rush to drag Mr. al-Senussi to the gallows before the law has
taken its course," said Ben Emmerson, Senussi's lawyer before the ICC.
Judges also ordered Libya to grant Emmerson access to his client.
Libyan authorities also are holding Gaddafi's son and one-time heir-apparent, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, who also is wanted by the court.
A court-appointed lawyer for Saif al-Islam was detained in Libya for a month alongside three other court officials when she attempted to visit her jailed client. Since, court officials and defence lawyers have had no contact with either Saif al-Islam or Senussi.