Al-Mahmoudi fate in hands of Tunis court
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 25/10/11
A Tunis appellate court is expected to rule Tuesday (October 25th) on whether to free deposed Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi or extradite him to Libya.
The court adjourned the secret hearing on Friday, delaying the case at the request of defence lawyers.
"We asked for an adjournment to further examine the file, as we haven't so far been able to see all the circumstances of this case, and we're insisting on this sacred right," said Bechir Essid, a defence attorney for the former Kadhafi official.
Al-Mahmoudi was arrested September 27th in Tamaghza while attempting to cross into Algeria. He was convicted of illegal entry and sentenced to six months in prison. His attorneys argued that as a government official travelling in wartime, he had a right under the Geneva Convention to enter Tunisia. Alhough he was acquitted, he has been held pending the extradition request.
"The former Libyan prime minister entered Tunisian soil August 19th legally, contrary to what has been said," Essid claimed. "He entered through Ras Jedir crossing, and his passport was stamped by Tunisian authorities."
"Al-Mahmoudi stayed in southern Tunisia for a month with a relative before he decided to depart for Algeria in order to preserve his own life," the defence lawyer explained. Essid also asserted that Al-Mahmoudi was brought before a Tozeur court before a lawyer was appointed to defend him.
But victims of the Kadhafi regime maintain that Al-Mahmoudi was responsible for inciting rape and murder.
"Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi's release is a rejected procedure because it violates all state laws," according to Sami Bousarsara, a lawyer representing residents from the Libyan city of Zuwarah. She argued that "article 55 of the Tunisian anti-terrorism law punishes any foreign national who is on Tunisian soil who terrorises a group of people."
Bousarsara said that Al-Mahmoudi's defence lawyers "justify the illegality of the defendant's extradition to the Libyan authorities and non-implementation of the agreement between Tunisia and Libya by saying that there is no state in Libya now".
"However, this is a mistake, since as long as the Tunisian government has recognised NTC, then the agreements that are signed between the two countries must be recognised and the defendant must be handed over to Libya," she noted.
Mabrouk Khourchid, another lawyer for the deposed prime minister, argued that his client should be granted political refugee status.
"We will submit an application for granting him political asylum," he told Magharebia. "Al-Mahmoudi doesn't refuse to stand trial in Libya, but not under the current circumstances. If he is to be extradited to Libya, he will be executed without a trial because the state is absent in that country which is ravaged by chaos and war."
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