Former Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi has been acquitted today of charges of illegally crossing the Tunisian-Libyan in September, 2011.
Mahmoudi’s lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchid, confirmed that Mahmoudi’s case was dropped after the court determined that the former Libyan prime minister had crossed into Tunisia lawfully. Consequently, Mahmoudi is scheduled to be released from custody later this evening, once the judiciary finalizes its conclusion with the proper authorities.
This hearing comes amid ongoing negotiations between the Tunisian interim government and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), concerning the prospect of extraditing Mahmoudi back to Libya. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has stated on numerous occasions that the approval of the extradition order would depend on adequate reassurances from Libyan authorities that humane treatment would be provided to the former Libyan Prime Minister should he be transferred to Libyan custody. The notion of extraditing Mahmoudi back to Libya has been met with fierce resistance from a number of human rights organizations based in Tunisia, which remain unconvinced that precautions would be taken to ensure that Mahmoudi would not be subjected to torture upon being delivered to the Libyan judiciary.
Mahmoudi was detained in Tunisia on September 21, 2011, near the Algerian border in the wake of the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime earlier that month. He has been charged in absentia with crimes related to corruption, the abuse of power, and involvement in numerous violations of human rights during the Gaddafi era.
Though Mahmoudi’s petition for political asylum in the Central African Republic has been accepted, Khorchid confirmed that a travel ban has been placed on Mahmoudi – prohibiting his departure from Tunisia.
Acquittal of Baghdadi Mahmoudi Provokes Ire Among Libyans
The news that the Libyan prime minister under Muammar Gaddafi, Baghdadi Mahmoudi, was acquitted by a Tunisian court yesterday of charges of illegally entering Tunisia was met with reactions of indignation in Libya today.
Hala Markous, originally from Zuwara, is a student in Tripoli and member of the Libyan NGO H2O, a post-revolution group that works for to inform Libyans about the progress of the country’s transitional period. She expressed her displeasure with the Tunisian authorities’ decision.
“Mahmoudi is a criminal, and I do not understand [Tunisian President Moncef] Marzouki’s fears that Mahmoudi may face capital punishment in Libya,” she stated.
Another local from Zuwara expressed similar feelings regarding the decision. Abdulaziz Assara, director of the Institute of Freedom’s Dawn in Zuwara, said that there is a sense of frustration among a segment of the Libyan population. According to Assara, inhabitants of Zuwara have been pushing for the extradition of Mahmoudi to Libya since it was alleged that he incited Gaddafi loyalists to murder residents and rape women of the town during the uprising a year ago.
“We have nothing against Tunisians, but many in Zuwara are quite upset by the decision. People of Zuwara want to know what went wrong, because we made requests to the Libyan National Transitional Council to present Tunisian authorities with documents that incriminate Mahmoudi with incitement to kill Libyans during the revolution,” Assara stated.
Local organizations in Zuwara called for a march to be held this Friday, demanding more transparency concerning Mahmoudi’s case in Tunisia.
Abdurrahim Ettira, a receptionist at a Benghazi hotel, expressed his resentment regarding the Tunisian authorities’ decision not to extradite Mahmoudi. “This will damage relations between Tunisia and Libya. There is no reason for not handing over a criminal like Mahmoudi,” said Ettira.
Regarding the inability of the Libyan justice system to guarantee a fair trial for former regime loyalists, Ettira stated that the judiciary is currently in the hands of the NTC, which is still in the process of formulating its policy with regards to transitional justice.
Ettira blames the NTC for its inaction on the case of Mahmoudi and its lack of cooperation with Tunisian authorities. “We recognize Tunisians’ generous support during our revolution and their sense of empathy nonetheless,” he added.
However, Fathi Terbel, Youth and Sports Minister in the NTC government, placed the blame on pre-existing Libyan justice system, which has yet to be reformed. “We do not have a reliable justice system in Libya that guarantees any Gaddafi supporter a fair trial,” he insisted.
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