By Essam Mohamed and Bakari Guèye
Libyan officials remained in Nouakchott on Wednesday (March 21st) awaiting a decision on their extradition request for former Kadhafi spy chief Abdullah Senussi.
“We respect the judicial procedures in Mauritania which will take time to finish, but it is simply a question of time,” Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said.
Deputy Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur claimed Tuesday (March 20th) that Mauritania was ready to extradite former Kadhafi spy chief Abdullah Senussi to Libya, despite a lack of confirmation from Mauritanian authorities.
The 62-year-old fugitive, arrested last Friday night at Nouakchott airport, is wanted in several countries for crimes allegedly committed during his tenure as Kadhafi’s chief of intelligence. He was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year for crimes against humanity over his role in countering the Libyan revolution.
Abu Shagur made the announcement via Twitter, a statement later confirmed by Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa in Tripoli on Wednesday. The deputy Libyan premier was in Nouakchott meeting with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and other officials as part of an attempt to secure Senussi’s extradition to Libya.
“The Libyan delegation discussed Senussi’s extradition to Libya so that he may have a fair trial as per international standards. As a result of these talks, the Mauritanian state confirmed its willingness to extradite him once the necessary procedures have been completed,” al-Manaa said, denying the Kadhafi official would be sent anywhere else.
Al-Manaa noted that Senussi was visited by delegation members in order to verify his identity.
“We hope that he’ll be in Libya soon to be tried there,” the spokesman said, adding that Senussi was in good health.
Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Tripoli on Wednesday that a decision by Nouakchott to send Senussi back to Libya would lead to an enhancement of ties between the two countries.
However, Mauritanian sources told AFP that no decision had yet been made regarding extradition.
The Libyan government had used the Nouakchott trip to exert pressure for extradition. Following Abu Shagur’s meeting with Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz on Tuesday, the Libyan official praised the president “for the courageous position he had taken regarding Abdullah Senussi’s arrest”.
“In reality this is a historic position which the Libyan people will never forget, because that man was the second in command in Kadhafi’s regime,” Abu Shagur said in Nouakchott.
He added that: “The meeting covered the significance of this step and examined ways in which relations between Libya and Mauritania could be strengthened, along with the Libyan government and people’s concern that this man should be extradited to Libya, because he is a Libyan citizen who must face due legal process in his own country.”
“We fully appreciate the stance adopted by His Excellency the President of the Republic in giving us a positive commitment in this area,” the deputy Libyan prime minister said.
In France, the Elysée Palace issued a statement saying the French president was “delighted at the arrest by the Mauritanian authorities of Abdullah Senussi”. British officials had similar praise for the capture, calling on Mauritania to hand over the Kadhafi spymaster to the ICC for trial on terror chargers.
“Senussi’s trial will turn the page on a dark period in Libya’s history,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said.