Sunday, 25 October 2015

Libya may refuse to extradite Lockerbie suspects

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of The Sunday Times. It reads as follows:]

Two men named by the Crown Office as suspects in the Lockerbie bombing would not be allowed to stand trial outside Libya, officials in Tripoli have indicated.

Earlier this month Nicola Sturgeon signalled her support for Abdullah al-Senussi and Mohammed Abouajela Masud to face justice in this country for the 1988 attack that led to the loss of 270 lives.

The pair — a former spy chief of the Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gadaffi and an explosives expert — are being held in a Tripoli prison for crimes committed during Libya’s 2011 revolution, respectively facing the death penalty and 10 years in prison.

As head of the Libyan external security service, Senussi is thought to have recruited Abdelbaset al- Megrahi, the only person so far convicted for Britain’s worst terrorist attack after Libya agreed to hand him over for trial. “Gadaffi sent Megrahi to be judged abroad but that was against the law because there was no agreement between our countries for extradition,” Jamal Zubia, head of the foreign media department in Tripoli, told The Sunday Times.

“I don’t think it would happen again. What Gadaffi did was shameful but now we must respect our laws and our state.”

Scottish investigators first tried to interview the men, along with six others, in 2009 but their request was rejected by Gadaffi. Scottish authorities have sent a new request to quiz the suspects. However, they have reportedly directed this to the internationally recognised parliament now based in the east of Libya, which has no power in the capital Tripoli — controlled by rival institutions for more than a year.

“The problem is that the Scottish court sent their demand to Tobruk, which shows they know nothing about Libya because they don’t realise the government is in Tripoli,” added Zubia. “They will be waiting maybe for ever for a reply from Tobruk because they can’t give permission for anyone to come to Tripoli and meet these prisoners.”

The Tripoli-based minister of justice, Mustafa al-Glaib, confirmed that no official request had been received by authorities in the capital. “What is circulating is media reports only. Until this time, we don’t even know for sure the names of the Libyans concerned, what the accusations are or what evidence there is against them,” he said.

“We will act according to Libyan law and we will not let the Libyan state be violated.”

The head of investigations for Libya’s general prosecutor’s office, Sadiq al-Sour, said if the UK or US made a request that was acceptable within Libyan law, it would be considered.

Senussi was given the death penalty on July 28 for a list of crimes including the killing of protestors and the distribution of weapons. The former head of a technical branch of Gadaffi’s external security agency, Masud is facing a 10-year sentence for arming vehicles with explosives and transferring these to Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 revolution.

Both men are appealing against the sentences, given in a trial that was criticised for failing to meet international fair trial standards. Legal teams say the judgment on the appeals by Libya’s supreme court could take anything from two months to two years.

Ibrahim Aboisha, one of Senussi’s lawyers, said he had only heard about the renewed interest in the Lockerbie case from the media. “I have not discussed any pre-revolution matters with my client and I can’t just go straight to him and ask him about Lockerbie as it could come as a big shock,” he said. “I would first need to see any official requests and discuss the matter with his family.”

Senussi, who has appeared gaunt at the court hearings, has been held in solitary confinement since his extradition from Mauritania in 2012.

Masud’s lawyer declined to talk to the press, saying that he was concerned the West might have a hidden agenda in reopening the Lockerbie case.

Access to either Senussi or Masud is likely to be challenging for UK or US investigators. Both men are held in Tripoli’s high-security Hadba prison, along with other senior officials from the former regime, and Gadaffi’s playboy footballer son Saadi.

Lawyers, relatives, human rights organisations and the UN have all reported difficulties with visiting high-profile prisoners in the facility. Several inmates have made allegations of mistreatment, and video footage leaked on the internet earlier this year showed the former dictator’s son Saadi being tortured.

No comments:

Post a Comment