It is critical that the recent media circus surrounding the detention of ICC staff not detract in any way from the immediacy of the plight of Saif Gaddafi. If anything, these events reveal how vulnerable Saif is and how much he and all of Libya’s political prisoners need our support. Please join in demanding Saif’s immediate and unconditional release.
A delegation from the International Criminal Court on Tuesday visited its colleagues being held in Libya over allegations that they had smuggled documents to Saif Gaddafi. The four court staff members were detained last week while visiting Saif Gaddafi. Human rights groups, the court in The Hague and the Australian government have all demanded that they be released immediately.
Libyan prosecutors say two of them — Melinda Taylor, an Australian lawyer who represents Mr. Gaddafi, and her Lebanese-born interpreter, Helene Assaf — will be held for at least 45 days while they are investigated.
ICC delegation visits colleagues held in Zintan, Libya
A delegation from the International Criminal Court has visited colleagues detained by a local militia in the Libyan mountain town of Zintan, a senior official says.
Ahmed al-Jehani, Libya’s ICC envoy, said the group was eventually allowed into the town after an initial delay.
The four detained ICC staff had gone to Zintan to meet Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader.
One was then accused of trying to pass him documents from a former ally.
The Hague-based court, the Australian government and rights groups have all demanded their immediate release. The ICC say their detention is illegal as they are immune from prosecution.
But Tripoli says the accused have put national security in jeopardy and will be held for 45 days while they are investigated.
The Zintan militia captured Saif al-Islam last November and have since refused to hand him over to central authorities in Tripoli.
Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor was detained last week, after accusations she clandestinely passed Mr Gaddafi a coded letter from a fugitive former aide, Mohammed Ismail.
Her Lebanese translator Helene Assaf is accused of being her accomplice.
Two others – Russian Alexander Khodakov and Spaniard Esteban Peralta Losilla – are with them, but it is unclear whether they are staying out of solidarity for their colleagues or are being held against their will.
“I can confirm that the ICC delegation entered Zintan and visited their colleagues,” despite initially being halted at the entrance to the town by militia members, Mr Jehani was quoted as saying.
He said they had been accompanied by the national ambassadors to Libya for each of those in custody.
“They are well, they are in a guesthouse, not in a prison. They have food, water, and are being treated well,” Mr Jehani reportedly said.
That was confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who said the Australian envoy had told him the detainees were “under no duress, they are enjoying air conditioning and television and fridges with fruit and yoghurt”, reported Radio Australia.
But he added: “The sad point is that there is no immediate prospect of release.”
Libyan authorities have been involved in a tussle with the ICC over where Saif al-Islam should stand trial over his role in last year’s uprising that ended his father’s decades-long rule of Libya.
The ICC had been permitted to provide him with access to ICC-appointed defence lawyers, and those detained were part of that team.
ICC envoys visit Aussie lawyer held in Libya
Australia’s ambassador and International Criminal Court (ICC) officials have finally been allowed to visit Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her three colleagues being held in the Libyan town of Zintan.
“I can confirm that the ICC delegation entered Zintan and visited their colleagues,” Ahmed al-Jehani, who is the Libyan envoy to the Hague-based tribunal, said today.
Ms Taylor and three of her ICC colleagues were transferred to a prison in Zintan on Sunday, the same day an ICC delegation arrived in Tripoli to negotiate their release with Libyan authorities.
“There were some problems entering Zintan in the beginning but they were allowed in,” Mr Jehani said, adding that the delegation was accompanied by the ambassadors of Australia, Lebanon, Russia and Spain.
Ajmi al-Atiri, commander of the brigade that detained Ms Taylor after a meeting with Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, said the delegation arrived without clearance.
“The ICC convoy arrived by land without the necessary authorisation so we turned them back,” Commander Atiri said.
Negotiations reportedly ensued and the delegation was allowed in after the defence ministry sent documentation in support of the ICC visit.
Tripoli accuses Ms Taylor of exchanging documents that represent a threat to national security with Saif, who has been held in Zintan since his capture on November 19 last year.
The Libyan authorities allege Ms Taylor was carrying a coded letter from Mohammed Ismail, Saif’s right-hand man, who is on the run.
Lebanese interpreter Helene Assaf, who has worked for the ICC since 2005, is being held on suspicion of being an “accomplice,” according to Mr Jehani.
Russian Alexander Khodakov and Spaniard Esteban Peralta Losilla are also in prison.
Mr Jehani said he was “optimistic” that the full ICC team would be able to go home soon after “positive meetings” at the foreign ministry.
“I hope that there will be a solution very soon,” he said. “Helene’s outlook is not bad.”
“The main person accused is Melinda. But the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
“I am optimistic … even for Melinda.”
Both the Australian government and the Hague-based tribunal have called for Ms Taylor’s immediate release.
Force Libya to free Melinda, husband tells UN
The husband of detained Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor has broken his silence, calling on the UN and countries such as the US and Britain to increase international pressure on Libya to release his wife.