By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab and Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 17 June 2013:
Qaddafi regime Foreign Minister Abdulati Al-Obeidi and Mohamed Al-Zway, the former secretary of the . . .[restrict]General People’s Congress, were found not guilty by a Tripoli court today. However, the Attorney General says he is appealing against the decisions and has ordered the two men to be returned to prison pending the appeal.
The verdict is seen as important because it shows the impartiality and independence of the Libya courts at a time when many voices outside the country claim that a fair trial is impossible in Libya, in particular in the case of Saif Al-Islam and Abdullah Senussi. The impossibility of a fair trial is one of the main planks of the International Criminal Court’s demand that Libya hand over both men to it.
Obeidi and Zway were first arrested in July 2011. Obeidi had served as Prime Minister from 1977 to 1979, then as nominal head of state from 1979 to 1981 and finally as Qaddafi’s last Foreign Minister after Musa Kusa fled in March 2011.
Zway, a close friend of Qaddafi from schooldays in Sebha, was Libya’s ambassador to the UK. In 2010 was chosen by the dictator to be Secretary-General of his General People’s Congress.
Their trial opened on 10 September last year. They were accused of poor performance of their duties while in office and of maladministration, specifically wasting of public funds in respect of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The prosecution claimed that it was wrong to organise a compensation deal of $2.7 billion to the victims’ families in return for having Libya removed from the list of the states sponsoring terrorism.
It also alleged that Obeidi and Zway had paid out double the amount originally planned – a charge at variance with claims by others linked to the compensation plan that the $2.7 billiion was itself never fully paid.
At the opening of the case, the judge said that the deal “was a waste of public money especially when there was no guarantee the charges in the Lockerbie case would be dropped if the compensation was made”.
Just before their trial, the former Justice Minister Mohamed Allagi who is president of Libya’s National Council for Civil Liberties and Human Rights, claimed that the trial and those of other Qaddafi officials were “invalid” because the law was not being properly implemented.
The charges against Zway and Obeidi surprised many observers at the time as they implied that the two should have been more effective in serving the Qaddafi regime and that the Lockerbie deal should never have happened.
Both men consistently denied the charges.
Today’s “Not Guilty” verdict was greeted with jubilation from the two men’s families. “We are satisfied that the verdict proves that Libyan justice is transparent and equal,” a nephew of Obeidi was quoted saying at the end of the proceedings.