TRIPOLI // Libya will not surrender Muammar Qaddafi's most prominent son to a foreign court, the interim justice minister said yesterday.
Mohammed Al Allagui made the claim as the top prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrived in Tripoli to discuss the fate of Saif Al Islam.
"In a nutshell, we are not going to hand him over," he said.
Saif Al Islam was captured in Libya's Saharan south on Saturday after three months on the run.
He was once seen as his father's successor and putting him on trial "is the special responsibility of the Libyan courts", Mr Allagui said.
"It is the prerogative of the Libyan courts. It is a question of our sovereignty over our territory and our citizens."
The ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, arrived in the Libyan capital yesterday for talks on jurisdiction over Saif Al Islam and Qaddafi's former intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Senussi, who was also captured on Sunday.
Both are wanted by the war crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity relating to the brutal crackdown on the revolution that ended Qaddafi's 42-year reign.
They face the death penalty if convicted in Libya.
Mr Allagui said Mr Moreno-Ocampo was welcome to visit Saif Al Islam to allay any concerns he might be subjected to ill-treatment after his father was killed following his capture last month.
But the prosecutor said he had no such plans. Libya is obliged by a Security Council resolution to work with the ICC. But the court could turn the case over to Libya if the authorities there can show the country has a functioning legal system that would give the men a fair trial.
Saif Al Islam is being held by the militiamen who captured him and Libya's ruling interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), was struggling to exert its authority to have him released to its charge.
The standoff underscores the ethnic and geographic divisions that have flared with the end of Qaddafi's autocratic rule.
Video of Saif Al Islam taken shortly after his arrest shows him warning his captors the regions that united in revolution would soon turn against each other.
In the footage, acquired by the Associated Press, he tells his captors that "in a couple of months or maximum one year" the regions that banded together to depose his father would betray each other, suggesting the country would succumb to infighting.
Discussions were continuing yesterday over the formation of an interim cabinet but the Reuters news agency quoted sources as saying the defence portfolio had been given to Osama Al Juwali, the head of the military council in Zintan and the commander of the militia that captured Saif Al Islam.
Mr Juwali is an ex-officer in the Libyan military whose forces from Zintan played a crucial role in the offensive on Tripoli that toppled Qaddafi's regime in August.
He had not previously been seen as a contender for the defence job.
The cabinet line-up is expected to be dominated by secularist liberals, with no key roles for the Islamists who have been making a bid for power since Qaddafi's fall.
The new government will run Libya until elections can be held.
Other appointments include Libya's deputy envoy to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, being named foreign minister, while an oil company executive, Hassan Ziglam, was made oil minister. The finance minister in the outgoing government, Ali Tarhouni, was reappointed, according to a source.