TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent was convicted and sentenced to death on Tuesday by a court in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on charges of murder and inciting genocide during the country’s 2011 uprising.
But Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unlikely to face the firing squad anytime soon. The sentence was handed down in absentia because he remains in the hands of a militia in western Libya that has refused to hand him over for the past four years – yet another sign of the country’s bitter fragmentation since his father’s fall from power.
The uncertainty surrounding Seif al-Islam’s fate underlines both the weakness of the courts and the general chaos this North African nation has descended into, split between rival militias and governments while being threatened by an affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which has benefited from the turmoil and captured some areas in Libya.
The same Tripoli court on Tuesday also sentenced to death eight other former regime officials, including former Libyan spy chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is in custody in the Libyan capital, as well as foreign intelligence chief Abuzed Omar-Dorda and Gadhafi’s former prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
The rulings can be appealed, and a defense lawyer in the case, Ali Aldaa, said he would challenge it before the Libyan Supreme Court. Another lawyer, Hussien Al-Sherif, described the verdicts as “very harsh.”
“We did not expect the sentences to be like this for the defendants, and there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the trial was “undermined by serious due process violations,” and called on the Libyan Supreme Court to independently review the verdict.
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