Tripoli, 23 May:
Former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi is, according to Tunisian Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri, to be extradited from Tunisia to . . .[restrict]Libya. He is wanted here on charges of financial corruption during the Qaddafi period and incitement to rape Libyan women during the 17 February revolution. Bhiri has announced that an agreement was reached on the issue during last week’s visit to Tunis by Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib.
However, following the justice minister’s statement, the official spokesman for Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, Adnen Manser today said that “Tunisia will not extradite Al-Baghadi Al-Mahmoudi unless Libya provides guarantees of an fair trial.” In particular, he added, “Tunisia will not hand him over if it believes his life would be in danger”.
The extradition of Mahmoudi, who fled to Tunisia last August and was then was arrested the following month while trying to cross the Tunisian border into Algeria, is turning into a lengthy saga.
He was initially held on charges of entering Tunisia illegally but these were thrown out by a Tunisian court in February. Meanwhile, however, Libya had made two extradition applications to the Tunisian courts and in November last year these were granted. As a result, despite numerous appeals by his lawyers to have him freed, Mahmoudi has remained in Tunisian custody every since pending the extradition warrants being implemented.
The holdup has been the refusal by former Tunisian President Fouad Mebazaa and then Marzouki who took over the presidency in December, to sign a warrant unless Libya agreed that he would not be executed and would be given a fair trial.
“We were shocked at this news,” Mabrouk Khorchid, Mahmoudi’s lawyer, said, referring to Bhiri’s announcement. “It’s a violation of international human rights law,” he told internet site Tunisia Live. He said that no one had informed him of the extradition decision; the first he had heard about it was via the media.
According to Khorchid, Mahmoudi believes he will be killed if he is sent back to Libya.
There were rumours in Tripoli last night that Mahmoudi would be delivered today or had even already been handed over. Contacted by the Libya Herald, NTC spokesman Mohammed Al-Hareizi denied this. “We have a promise from the Tunisian government to hand him over, but we don’t have a time,” he said. It would be soon, he thought, but could be in a week’s or a month’s time.
According to Tunisian presidential spokesman Manser today, however, the agreement to hand him over is “a preliminary one “. A Tunisian commission is to be set up which will assess the soundness of the Libyan justice system, he said. It will also evaluate the physical and mental condition of Mahmoudi.
Given the time it usually takes commissions to assemble, decide what they going to do and who is going to do it, make the necessary visits and then draw up a report, it could be months before anything happens.
Contrary to earlier reports that he was now being held under house arrest in a private villa, Mahmoudi is still held in the Mornaguia prison, south of Tunis. On Saturday he began a hunger strike, his sixth since being attested.
During last week’s joint meetings in Tunis between the two governments, Libya agreed to give Tunisia oil at below cost assured oil and to make a cash injection into the Tunisian economy. Precise figures have not yet been released.