Libya has been told by the International Criminal Court that it can conduct the trial of dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s former spy chief, the first time the court has deferred a case to a national judiciary.

The ICC's judges ruled that Abdallah al-Senussi, 63 could be tried in Libya as the his case was being "conducted by competent authorities and that Libya is willing and able genuinely to carry out such investigation".

The ICC stressed that the Senussi decision had no bearing on the case against Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who is still wanted in The Hague.

Countries including Kenya and Ivory Coast have asked to try their nationals in their own courts after they were charged by the ICC, but this is the first that the court has approved such a request.

The ICC's founding document, the Rome Statute, says that the ICC cannot carry out proceedings against a suspect if they are receiving a fair trial on similar charges in a domestic court.

Senussi's lawyer, Ben Emmerson, called the decision "shocking", saying it condemned his client to "mob justice" and an "inevitable death penalty".

He said he would appeal against the decision, which the ICC has said it would allow.

"There was overwhelming evidence before the court that the Libyan justice system is close to collapse and that it is incapable of conducting fair trials of any Gaddafi-era officials.

"The effect of this decision is to condemn Senussi to face mob  justice without even access to a lawyer, and in which the inevitable outcome is  the death penalty."

Libyan prisons are rife with torture, abduction and assassination, Emmerson said, citing international monitors.

The ICC found "concrete and progressive steps are being undertaken by the domestic authorities in the proceedings against Senussi".

A Tripoli court is to decide on October 24 whether to indict Seif al-Islam and Senussi, among 20 senior figures from Gaddafi’s regime charged with killing protesters during the 2011 revolt that toppled him.

However, Saif remains in the hands of rebels in the western Libya town of Zintan, who have refused to hand him over to Tripoli authorities.

Source: Agencies