Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi, a playboy footballer who fled to Niger as his father’s regime crumbled in 2011, has been extradited back to Libya.
The government in Tripoli said Saadi – one of Gaddafi’s eight children – would be treated “in accordance with international law”.
A Libyan official said he had arrived Tripoli airport yesterday and was transferred to a prison in the capital.
Shortly after the news of his extradition broke, photographs circulated on social media showing Saadi in a blue prison uniform, while Libyan guards were shaving his hair and beard.
He was known for his love of professional soccer and his playboy lifestyle. His brief career in Italian football ended after a failed drug test. He headed Libya’s Football Federation and was also the former head of the country’s special forces.
Saadi, who had been under house arrest in the West African nation since fleeing, was wanted by the Libyan authorities.
Like most Gaddafi loyalists and former regime officials, he was wanted for his role in curbing protests against his father’s rule and the killing of demonstrators.
But unlike his brother, Saif al-Islam, who was groomed to be Gaddafi’s successor, Saadi is not being sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Saif al-Islam is being held by a militia in the western Libyan town of Zintan, which refuses to hand him over to the Tripoli government for trial.
With yesterday’s extradition, Saadi joins Saif al-Islam as the only two of Gaddafi’s children in Libya.
At least three other sons were killed during the uprising, while the rest of the children sought asylum in neighbouring Algeria, along with Gaddafi’s wife and Saadi’s mother, Safiya. The mother, a sister and two brothers, were granted asylum in Oman in 2012 and moved there from Algeria.
Niger had previously refused to comply with Libyan requests for Saadi’s extradition, saying that once he was back home, he might be killed.
There have been tensions between the two African nations and while Libya has criticised the presence of Gaddafi loyalists in Niger, officials there have expressed concern about “the terrorist threat” posed by the lack of security in southern Libya, near its own border.
Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya with an eccentric brutality for nearly 42 years before he was ousted by an uprising in August 2011. He was captured and killed in October, along with his son Muatassim. Killed earlier in the civil war were younger brothers Saif al-Arab and Khamis.
The rule of law is weak in Libya after decades of Gaddafi’s reign. Courts are still paralysed and security remains tenuous as unruly militias proliferate.
The state, however, relies heavily on the militias to serve as security forces, since the police and military remain a shambles. Successive governments have been too weak to either secure Saif al-Islam’s imprisonment in the capital or put pressure on the Zintan militia to hand him over.
The ICC has charged Saif al-Islam with murder and persecution of civilians during the early days of the Libyan uprising. If convicted in that court, he would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, because it does not have the death penalty.
Last summer, ICC judges ruled Libya could not give Saif al-Islam a fair trial and asked authorities to hand him over to The Hague.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Gaddaf-el-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and a former envoy to Egypt, remains in Egypt despite Tripoli’s attempts to secure his extradition.