TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The imprisoned son of slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi made his first appearance on Thursday in a local court on charges of harming state security, attempting to escape prison and insulting the nation's new flag, Libya's official news agency said.
LANA says the trial of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the ousted leader's longtime heir apparent, was held in the western town of Zintan where he is being held by militiamen. The spokesman of Libya's General Prosecutor Taha Baara quoted Seif al-Islam as saying: "only God will defend me."
The charges are linked to his June meeting with an International Criminal Court delegation accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him in his cell. The four-member team was detained by Zintan rebels but released after the ICC made an apology and pledged to investigate the incident.
The ICC declined comment on what it called "national proceedings," which on Thursday were adjourned until May so that a lawyer could be assigned Seif al-Islam, the most senior member of the ousted Gadhafi regime to be captured alive in 2011.
The delegation that visited in June included an Australian lawyer named Melinda Taylor who was assigned by ICC to represent Seif al-Islam in the main proceedings against him — he is charged with crimes against humanity for alleged involvement in attacks on civilians in the early stages of the popular uprising against his father's four-decade rule. Former spy chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, who was extradited from Mauritania last year, is facing similar charges.
Upon her release, Taylor said that her detention showed that Seif al-Islam can't get a fair trial in his home country.
The Zintan rebels who captured him were part of a larger force that seized the capital, Tripoli, in August 2011, ending Gadhafi's reign. Gadhafi was killed two months later while trying to escape rebel forces storming his home town of Sirte.
According to filings by defense lawyers at the ICC, Seif al-Islam said he wants to be tried for alleged war crimes in the Netherlands, and a trial in Libya would be tantamount to murder. "There will certainly be no justice in the case if the prosecution is based on evidence from torture," he said. "I am not afraid to die but if you execute me after such a trial you should just call it murder," he added.
Reports suggested that authorities could try Seif al-Islam and al-Senoussi next month. However, on Tuesday, Libyan authorities said in a letter sent to the ICC that they will not hold since investigation are close to completion but pretrial proceedings will likely begin in February.
Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed to this report.