Tunisia extradites Al-Mahmoudi
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 09/11/11
The fate of former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi is now in Libyan hands despite his lawyers' efforts.
A Tunis appellate court on Tuesday (November 8th) ruled in favour of the request by Libyan authorities to extradite the former Kadhafi official.
Al-Mahmoudi was arrested September 21st in Tamaghza while attempting to cross into Algeria. He was convicted of illegal entry and sentenced to six months in prison.
His lawyers criticised the decision, arguing that the UN Convention against Torture states that governments can abstain from extraditing wanted individuals to their countries' authorities if they could be subjected to torture or any other rights violation.
"It's a wrong political decision, and if any harm comes to him in Libya, the Tunisian justice system will be a party to that," said Mabrouk Kourchid, Al-Mahmoudi's lawyer.
He added that his client has no way to appeal the decision because it is final.
Kourchid also alleged that this decision involved "political commitments on the part of Tunisian authorities more than their commitments to human rights and justice".
He made an appeal to non-governmental organisations to intervene with the president, who must sign the decision for it to take effect.
Amnesty International urged Tunisia not to extradite al-Mahmoudi to Libya, saying he risked being subject to "serious human rights violations".
"If Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi would be returned to Libya, he would at present face real risks, serious human rights violations," said James Lynch, spokesman for Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa section.
"Extraditing al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to the Libyan authorities is a violation of international human rights law which bans the extradition of individuals to countries where they risk being subject to torture or mistreatment, especially as it seems that Al-Baghdadi won't be guaranteed a fair trial," Lotfi Azzouz, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Tunis, said.
In a last-ditch effort, Al-Mahmoudi sent a message through his lawyer to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
"As a civilian who was in the service of the Libyan state, I call upon your Excellency to intervene in my favour with the Tunisian authorities to prevent my extradition to Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) out of fear for my fate and that of my family," the message read.
However, defected Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalgam asked the Algerian President not to respond to this request, saying that Al-Mahmoudi's message was misleading and contained lies.
"He was never a civilian, because he was behind many of the crimes that Kadhafi planned and Al-Baghdadi carried out personally," he said.
There were varied reactions to the extradition decision.
Mohamed Ali Maghrebi called on the Tunisian authorities to reverse the decision. "I think that Tunisia was subjected to external pressures, and therefore it took this inhumane and extra-judicial decision."
"What justice system is it that would hand over a political refugee to a country that has no justice system, or a government that has the actual tools of power on the ground or constitutional institutions?" he wondered.
Samia Abboudi concurred. "It's really shameful to extradite someone who has sought shelter at your place. These are not the manners of Muslims. The NTC wants this man for just one goal: to shut him up because they know that he's the only one who knows all internal and external secrets and has files about the big countries."
"We trust the Libyan government and NTC, especially as all international human rights organisations will closely follow up on the issue," Ali Ellibi said.
"I think that Libyans have the right to try this man because he was undoubtedly involved in Kadhafi's regime," Ramzi Tabouni said. "However, he must be guaranteed a fair trial to do him justice."
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