By Houda Trabelsi and Monia Ghanmi
Libya’s transitional government on Saturday (September 24th) called on Tunisia to return former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi, two days after he was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of illegal entry.
“The new authorities in Libya want al-Mahmoudi to be handed over to face fair trial for what he committed against the Libyans,” National Transitional Council (NTC) deputy chairman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga told pro-rebel television channel “Free Libya”.
The provisional government will request Tunisia hand over the former prime minister since he “directly oversaw the operations which had to do with the killings of Libyans”, according to Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi.
Libyan Attorney General Saleh Baccouche earlier sent a memo to the Arab Police Organisation and Interpol demanding Al-Mahmoudi’s transfer to Libya. He called on rights groups and legal organisations to help in collecting evidence to prosecute those involved in crimes against Libyans.
Al-Mahmoudi was arrested last Wednesday in Tamaghza, in the Tozeur governorate, while attempting to cross in an off-road vehicle into Algeria.
“When his passport was checked, it was found out that it didn’t carry an entry visa seal,” Tunisian Interior Ministry’s media attaché told Magharebia. “Therefore, he was referred to public prosecution that decided to refer him to court.”
Al-Mahmoudi was one of Moamer Kadhafi’s last allies to switch sides. He declared his support for rebels on September 1st after the fall of Tripoli. Many Libyans believe that his defection came too late.
“This man has a black file with the Libyan people,” said Taha Sarraj. “He was witness to what the Libyan people have suffered in terms of injustice, oppression, torture and killing, and even took part in that. The time has now come for those people to demand just retribution against those who have wronged them.”
Blogger Zouheir Boujallad praised NTC’s effort to bring the ex-Prime Minister to Libya. “I hope that the Tunisian government will understand this request because he must face justice in his own country,” he wrote. “He was one of the people who oppressed the Libyan people, and therefore, must be held to account for the crimes he has committed. This is for the sake of blood of all martyrs.”
Others, however, maintain that the transitional government should wait for the guns to fall silent before putting former regime officials on trial.
“We must wait until things calm down and a new government is formed to start the reform process of institutions and laws so that all trials may be just for the people involved,” said Aliya Hrithi.
Meanwhile, the situation on the Libyan-Tunisian border remains a major cause of concerns for Tunisians.
Tunisian army units last Thursday combed “the area known as the desert erg, to which an armed group infiltrated on Wednesday via the Algerian border”, according to Defence Ministry spokesman Mokhtar Ben Nasser. He denied that the group had any links with terrorists, adding that other similar elements had been chased last week.
“It seems that this group has been chased by other groups, and they penetrated into Tunisian soil to hide, given the nature of the uninhabited area that is known for its high sand dunes, and lack of pathways,” Ben Nasser explained.
Before Kadhafi’s fall, Tunisian security forces in the south detained some armed groups, suspected of planning terrorist operations.
Security analysts warn about dangers coming from the border area.
“The weapons that can fall into the hands of terrorist networks are of the heavy weapons type (rocket launchers, RPGs, anti-aircraft missiles, medium and long-range missiles) which were in the possession of Libyan regime,” historian and military researcher Faisal Charif told Magharebia.
The remnants of the ousted regime seek to “destabilise the Maghreb to abort Arab revolutions and prevent the success of reformist and democratic processes in some other countries”, he added.
Tunisia, Algeria and Libya must “form a security alliance” and join intelligence efforts to confront these challenges, the analyst concluded.