By Monia Ghanmi
Former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi on Monday (October 3rd) will ask Tunisian authorities to grant him provisional release. Al-Mahmoudi’s defence attorneys have raised the question of possible political asylum for their client.
The former Libyan official would reportedly fear for his life, were Tunisia to send him back to his home country, his lawyer said at a Tunis press conference in Saturday. He went on to question Libya’s ability to provide a fair trial.
“Al-Mahmoudi does not refuse to stand before Libyan judiciary, but not in the current circumstances,” lawyer Mabrouk Kourchid said.
“In addition, all the necessary conditions that enable him to enjoy that asylum in Tunisia are available, given that he is a politician whose life is threatened in his country,” he added, noting that there were no previous criminal indictments against Al-Mahmoudi in Tunisia and that the former minister posed no threat.
Libya issued a summons for Al-Mahmoudi last Wednesday. The next day, after receiving a request from Interpol, the Tunisian interim government said it was prepared to hand him over to his home country.
The Tunisian judiciary, meanwhile, requested that Libya send an extradition request within one month via diplomatic channels in accordance with the Tunisian-Libyan 1961 agreement and the Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Co-operation.
Al-Mahmoudi’s defence team argued that their client’s file was used as a political card for the interests of certain parties and his extradition would be “a violation of law”.
According to defence team member Azzedine Arfaoui, the Riyadh Agreement stipulates that extradition can only take place in crimes against public rights, not political crimes. He called on Tunis appeal court prosecution to verify the documents that were sent by the Libyan side and to examine the official procedures in extradition requests.
“It’s a file that has a political nature,” Kourchid argued. “There is collusion between the Libyan and Tunisian authorities, and there are diplomatic considerations. However, all that we’re asking for now is that the nascent democracy in Tunisia does not commit a human rights crime by extraditing Al-Mahmoudi to Libya.”
The former Libyan prime minister was arrested two weeks ago in Tamaghza while attempting to cross into Algeria. He was convicted of illegal entry and sentenced to six months in prison. His attorneys argued that as a government official travelling in wartime, he had a right under the Geneva Convention to enter Tunisia. Though he was acquitted last Tuesday, he is still held in prison pending an extradition request.
The defence team demanded that their client be released and not returned to his country’s authorities, calling his on-going detention a “manoeuvre”. The lawyers maintained that Al-Mahmoudi’s condition was critical after he began a hunger strike last Thursday to protest his return to Libya.
“The Tunisian judiciary must reject his extradition on humanitarian grounds, because he may be executed in Libya,” Kourchid added.