Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat—One of the sons of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi appeared by video link at the latest session of his trial on Sunday, together with several other former regime figures on trial for their role in the bloody events of the 2011 uprising.
Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, dressed in a blue prison uniform, appeared in court from Zintan, 106 miles (170 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli, where the trial is being held.
He has been held in the town since November 2011, following the ousting of his father, by a local militia that has refused to hand him over to the central authorities.
Following the hearing at Tripoli Appeals Court, the presiding judge, El-Sadiq El-Sour, adjourned the hearing due to the absence of a number of defendants’ lawyers.
Asked if he had a lawyer or wanted one to be appointed for him by the court, Saif Al-Islam replied: “God is my defender.” The court set the date of the next hearing for May 11, and decided to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
Of the 37 defendants on trial, 22 appeared in the dock in Tripoli on Sunday, including Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi, his last prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, as well as head of external security Abu-Zaid Dawrdah.
Eight others, including the dictator’s former head of internal security, Mansour Daw, appeared by video link from Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli, where they are held.
The court adjourned its previous hearing because interrogations of the defendants had not been completed and the video link was not ready.
The lawyers of some of the defendants said they had not received copies of the charges against their clients, which prompted the judge to provide them for the defense.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International criticized the use of the video link to conduct the hearing, saying it provided only “the illusion of legality” in the absence of the Libyan state’s ability to produce Saif Al-Islam and other defendants in court in Tripoli.
The defendants are facing multiple charges, including assassination, looting, vandalism, and actions which threatened national unity, as well as incitement to rape and the recruitment of foreign mercenaries to quell the uprising of 2011.
During the hearing, which lasted more than an hour, Senussi said he wanted more time to allow him to find a lawyer.
He said: “Libyan lawyers are not brave,” in reference to attempts to appoint a lawyer for him, and that “we are not facing justice, we are facing something else.” He called on the court to allow him to appoint non-Libyan lawyers in order to ensure he receives a fair trial.
State prosecutors said Libyan law only allowed foreign lawyers to assist Libyan lawyers, but not to act on their behalf. A Libyan lawyer announced his withdrawal from Senussi’s defense team, citing security reasons, according to the prosecution.
According to Amnesty International, a number of lawyers acting for Senussi and other defendants say that they fear they will be the victims of revenge attacks, particularly if they visit their clients at detention facilities.
Saif Al-Islam—who was seen as his father’s likely successor—and Senussi were the subjects of international arrest warrants for alleged war crimes committed during the uprising.
Last May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected a request by Libyan authorities to hold Saif Al-Islam’s trial in Libya because of doubts about Tripoli’s ability to conduct a fair hearing. The ICC, however, agreed in October to allow Libyan authorities to try Senussi in Libyan courts.
Meanwhile, the official Libyan News Agency reported a violent explosion in the center of Benghazi, which resulted in severe damage to a number of buildings and vehicles but caused no casualties. The agency quoted eyewitnesses as saying an explosive device which was placed underneath a car detonated and caused extensive damage to cars and buildings in the vicinity.
An interior ministry spokesperson, Rami Kaal, also told the Anadolu news agency that unidentified armed men stole 6 million Libyan dinars (4.8 million US dollars) on Sunday from a security vehicle belonging to a bank in Tripoli.
Kaal said the assailants, who were armed with rifles and anti-tank rockets, kidnapped the driver of the security vehicle and a security guard and took the cash, adding that “this is the largest amount of cash to be stolen in Tripoli.”