By Ashraf Abdul Wahab and Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 27 April 2014:
Saif Qaddafi and eight defendants held in Misrata appeared at Hadba Prison Court today, via video link, along with 24 other defendants.
Members of the press watched proceedings from a room adjacent to the court. A large central screen showed the courtroom itself, and two smaller ones either side showed Saif via video-link from Zintan where he continues to be detained, and the prisoners in Misrata. All the prisoners were behind bars.
Photographers were allowed to enter the main courtroom for a few minutes before proceedings started, to photograph the defendants.
Neither of the two most high-profile defendants, Saif and former spy chief Abdullah Senussi, had lawyers, they told the judge. Saif simply said that God was his lawyer, whilst Senussi pleaded to be given an international lawyer, saying that he could not trust anyone else to defend him properly. Appearing agitated and gesturing while he spoke Senussi, who looked thin and gaunt, said there was no justice in the courtroom.
The judge ran through the list of defendants at the hearing, which totalled 38. Those present, either in the courthouse or in Tripoli and Misrata, rose, stepped forward and confirmed their presence. A number of defendants were missing at the trial, including Qaddafi’s last Prime Minister Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi.
Lawyers complained that they had not been given full access to relevant documentation which, they said, made it difficult to prepare the defence for their clients.
Lawyer for a senior official in the old regime’s intelligence Abdul Hamid Amar Bouhada told the Libya Herald that the prosecution held more than 40 documents that needed to be made accessible.
The Attorney General has also not yet made available a comprehensive list of the defendants. Although all the names were read out at the hearing today, it was challenging for anyone present to write all these down correctly.
Apart from a few technical hitches relating to the sound quality and one break in connection lasting a few minutes, the video links worked comparatively well. This was a two-way system, so the defendants could see the proceedings in Tripoli.
The hearing was adjourned until 11 May, after the judge ordered lawyers to be found for both Saif and Senussi.