Tunisian rights groups oppose al-Mahmoudi extradition
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 10/01/12
Fifteen Tunisian and international human rights groups issued a joint statement Saturday (January 7th) calling on the Tunisian government not to extradite former Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi.
The statement followed a press conference organised by the Tunisian branch of Amnesty International and the Tunisian Association for Combating Torture (ALTT) on Friday where activists claimed that the extradition of the Kadhafi regime official would expose him to risk of torture or extrajudicial execution in violation of international agreements signed by Tunisia.
"We ask the president of the republic not to authorise the extradition to the new Libyan authorities if they do not guarantee a fair trial," Sondes Garbouj, the president of Amnesty International in Tunisia, told the news conference.
President Moncef Marzouki said last week during his trip to Libya that Tunisia was waiting on guarantees of a fair trial and assurances that al-Mahmoudi would not be harmed before any extradition. He noted that Tunisia itself was seeking the extradition of deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia.
"We refuse the extradition of Mr al-Mahmoudi so long as the death penalty still exists in Libya. The new Tunisia cannot extradite a person threatened with execution," AFP quoted ALTT head Radhia Nasraoui as saying.
Habib Marsit, head of the Tunisian National Coalition for Abolition of the Death Penalty, echoed the concern, noting that the Libyan judiciary still used capital punishment.
Following Marzouki's visit to Libya, the activists expressed concern that al-Mahmoudi would be extradited to Tripoli as part of improved ties between Tunisian authorities and their Libyan counterparts.
"We reject employment in exchange for extradition," Nasraoui said. "In addition, our traditions don't allow the extradition of someone who sought our help and resorted to us."
Béchir Essid, a lawyer for al-Mahmoudi, said that article 313 in the Tunisian penal code bans the extradition of detainees in case the arrest warrant carries a political nature, a condition he believes applies to al-Mahmoudi.
"The necessary conditions for a fair trial for any wanted individual in Libya are not available now because the political and judicial conditions in that brotherly country are not stable now," he added. "The new rulers in Libya want to have him extradited because they simply want to liquidate him like they did with the rest of former regime officials."
Essid said al-Baghdadi's file was resolved when Tunisia's former interim President Foued Mebazza said before stepping down that he wouldn't sign the extradition decision and stressed the need to release al-Mahmoudi from prison and decide his case once and for all.
Essid noted that al-Mahmoudi didn't seek asylum in Tunisia; rather, he was on his way to Algeria when he was arrested by Tunisian authorities on charges of entering the country illegally.
"What does the Tunisian authority have to do with that so as to place itself in this impasse?" he wondered.
Another lawyer on the al-Mahmoudi defence team, Mabrouk Kourchid, has said that President Marzouki shouldn't talk about extradition while the Libyan government is unable to control violence on its own soil or guarantee a fair trial.
The former Libyan premier is wanted in his homeland on charges of corruption and other crimes allegedly committed during the Kadhafi regime.
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