Libyan group says it has freed Gaddafi son Seif al-Islam
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Libyan group says it has freed Gaddafi son Seif al-Islam

Wanted by ICC for 'crimes against humanity,' former dictator's emissary released by rebel militia under contested amnesty law

Seif Al-Islam is seen after his capture in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Zintan on November 19, 2011 (Ammar El-Darwish/AP)
Seif Al-Islam is seen after his capture in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Zintan on November 19, 2011 (Ammar El-Darwish/AP)

TRIPOLI, Libya (AFP) — An armed group in Libya said on Facebook Saturday it had freed Seif al-Islam, the son of dead dictator Muammar Gaddafi who had been in their custody since November 2011.

The Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade, a militia of former rebels that controls the town of Zintan in western Libya, said Seif al-Islam was freed Friday evening, “the 14th day of the month of Ramadan”, under an amnesty law promulgated by the parliament based in the east of the country.

Libya has rival administrations, with the authorities in the east not recognizing the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli.

Political rivalry and fighting between militias has hampered Libya’s efforts to recover from the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Seif al-Islam’s father.

Buildings ravaged by fighting in Sirte, Libya, October 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File)
Buildings ravaged by fighting in Sirte, Libya, October 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File)

Rival authorities and militias have been vying for control of the oil-rich country ever since.

“We have decided to liberate Seif al-Islam Muammar Gaddafi. He is now free and has left the city of Zintan,” the statement on Facebook said.

Zintan is controlled by armed groups opposed to the GNA.

The son of the former dictator is the subject of an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the eight months of the uprising in 2011.

Libya’s authorities and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are in dispute over who has the right to judge him.

‘Sword of Islam’

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, 44, was sentenced to death in July 2015 by a court in Tripoli for his role in the murderous repression of the 2011 revolt.

His name means sword of Islam, and he is the second of Gaddafi’s eight children, the eldest son of his second wife Safiya.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya, in February 2011. The International Criminal Court prosecutor had asked judges to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and son Saif, for crimes against humanity, accusing them of deliberately targeting civilians in their crackdown against rebels. (photo credit: AP Photo/Ben Curtis, file)
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi speaks to the media at a press conference in a hotel in Tripoli, Libya, in February 2011. (photo credit: AP/Ben Curtis)

The fluent English speaker often appeared in the West as the public face of his father’s regime.

He held no official post but had influence as a loyal emissary of the regime and architect of reform.

In July 2016, Seif al-Islam’s lawyers claimed that their client had been released under an amnesty issued by the unrecognized authorities in the east of the country.

But the GNA said the amnesty, enacted in April that year, cannot apply to persons accused of crimes against humanity.

In all, three of Kadhafi’s seven sons were killed during the revolution.

One son who survived, Saadi, is still on trial in Libya for his alleged involvement in the crackdown and killing of a former football coach.

The deposed dictator’s widow Safiya and three more of their children found refuge in Algeria in the wake of the revolution and then later in Oman.

Al-Saadi Gaddafi, in uniform, and his brother Hannibal Gaddafi, right, watch a military exercise in an undated photo released in 2011. (photo credit: AP/Abdel Magid al-Fergany)
Al-Saadi Gaddafi, in uniform, and his brother Hannibal Gaddafi, right, watch a military exercise in an undated photo released in 2011. (photo credit: AP/Abdel Magid al-Fergany)

But the shockwaves created by the ouster and grizzly killing of Muammar Gaddafi by rebels in his home town of Sirte continue to ripple across the troubled country.

Late last month, Tripoli was rocked by fierce clashes between forces loyal to the unity government and rival militias, with more than 50 members of the pro-GNA forces reported killed.

Relying on militia support and pitted against the rival administration in the east, the GNA has struggled to assert its authority.

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