Gaddafi’s son in court on national security charge

File photo of Saif al-Islam, son of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Picture: AFP/ Getty

File photo of Saif al-Islam, son of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Picture: AFP/ Getty

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SAIF al-Islam, a son of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, appeared in court yesterday in the town of Zintan, where he had been held since his capture by former rebels in November 2011.

Saif, at the centre of a legal tussle between Libya and the International Criminal Court (ICC), smiled and told reporters he was in good health during his brief appearance.

The powerful armed group in Zintan, which spearheaded the capture of Tripoli from Gaddafi’s forces in August 2011, has insisted on keeping Saif imprisoned in the town.

Once Gaddafi’s presumed heir, Saif is wanted by the ICC on war crimes charges, but the case to be heard in Zintan relates to charges that he gave information to an ICC lawyer last year that could endanger national security.

He was the only defendant of 13 people who were called to appear in court on those charges, confirming he was in the room when his name was called out and that his lawyers were present. The case was then postponed until 19 September because the defence’s case was incomplete.

The ICC lawyer, Australian Melinda Taylor, was herself detained for three weeks after a meeting in which Saif is accused of handing over sensitive papers and information.

Ms Taylor, who had been appointed by the ICC to act as Saif’s defence lawyer, has said her detention proved he could not get a fair trial in Libya.

“These documents as I understand it were nothing more than Saif expressing a preference to be tried by the ICC,” said John Jones, the lawyer appointed by Saif’s family to defend him before the international court.

He added that the national security charges Saif faced were “the antithesis of justice,” and said Libyan authorities had violated his right to speak to a defence lawyer by seizing the documents and detaining Taylor.

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