Gaddafi's sons Saadi Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam did not appear in
the courtroom at Tripoli's Al-Hadba prison, but the deposed ruler's
ex-spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi was among the former senior
officials sitting in blue jumpsuits behind a fenced-off section.
The men face charges ranging from corruption to war crimes related
to the deaths during the 2011 uprising, which expanded into a civil
war that eventually ousted Gaddafi. The former Libyan leader was
later killed after being captured by rebels.
Addressing the four judges, many of the defendants complained they
had not been given access to lawyers or only saw them at court
"I want to be treated like other prisoners. I want visiting rights.
I don't have a lawyer," Senussi said.
Prosecutors said Senussi had been allowed to see relatives, but
denied lawyers had been prevented from visiting their clients at the
Post-Gaddafi Libya has so far been defined by a weak interim
government and growing unrest as former revolutionary fighters
refuse to give up their weapons, and armed protesters blockade the
country's crucial oil exports.
The trial began a day after interim prime minister Abdullah
al-Thinni announced his resignation after an attack on his family
and following the ousting of the previous prime minister barely a
The International Criminal Court and other human rights
organizations are concerned over the fairness of Libya's justice
system although the government won the right last year to try
Gaddafi's former spy chief domestically instead of at the ICC.
Senussi was joined in the court by Gaddafi's former prime minister
Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, and former foreign minister Abdul Ati
al-Obeidi. Also in the court was ex-intelligence chief Buzeid Dorda,
who had appeared at earlier trial proceedings.
But the chief investigator in the case, Sidiq al-Sour, said Saadi
would not appear in court on Monday because investigations were
Saif al-Islam, long viewed as Gaddafi's heir and still held by a
group of former rebels in western Libya, had been expected to appear
by video-link inside the courtroom.
After Monday's opening session, the trial will not resume until
April 27 as investigators need more time to finish their cases with
some of the defendants.
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Libya's nascent democracy has struggled to establish basic
institutions and the rule of law as Gaddafi left behind a shell of a
government after absorbing all the power into his own hands during
his four-decade rule.
"If they don't get fair trials then it casts doubt over whether the
new Libya is not about selective justice," Hanan Salah, Libya
researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division at Human
Rights Watch said before the trial.
"So far, there have been problems with legal representation. Many of
those on trial did not have a lawyer from the beginning — a
cornerstone of a fair trial."
Saadi Gaddafi, known as a playboy with a brief career in
professional soccer, was extradited to Libya from Niger in early
March. He had been expected to appear in court for the first time to
Gaddafi's more prominent son, Saif al-Islam, is being held by the
powerful western Zintan militia group, who have refused to hand him
over to the central government, saying they believe it cannot
provide a secure trial.
But Libya's justice minister insisted that the trial was open to the
public who would ensure the process was fair and not turn into a
"Mickey Mouse" show trial.
"I will not allow any crazy stuff, I will make sure it meets
international standards ... that is why we are having open trials,"
Salah al-Merghani, the justice minister told Reuters.
"We heard there were complaints from the lawyers ... The court will
see if the complaints are genuine or not."
(Additional reporting by Feras Bosalum;
editing by Patrick Markey
and Susan Fenton)
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