x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

France asks Libya to hand over spy chief

France press Tripoli to extradite Muammar Qaddafi's former intelligence chief over the bombing of a French airline two decades ago.

TRIPOLI // As Libya's interim government works to put Muammar Qaddafi's captured son on trial in the country instead of before an international court, France yesterday pressed Tripoli to extradite the dictator's former intelligence chief over the bombing of a French airline two decades ago.

A senior Libyan commander confirmed yesterday that his fighters had captured a former spy chief, Abdullah Al Senussi.

Unconfirmed reports said he had been captured over the weekend soon after Qaddafi's son and former heir-apparent, Saif Al Islam, was caught in Libya's southern desert trying to flee to Niger.

The prime minister-designate, Abdurrahim El Keib, said earlier he needed to verify the reports of Senussi's capture.

Saif Al Islam and Senussi are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity but the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has already said it would try Qaddafi at home.

In Paris, the French foreign ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said France was talking with "relevant jurisdictions" to ensure that Senoussi was held to account.

Revolutionary fighters captured the brother-in-law of the former leader on Sunday - the day Saif Al Islam was taken in the same region by mountain tribesmen.

Senoussi was among six people tried and convicted in absentia 12 years ago in France over the 1989 bombing of a UTA airline flight over Niger that killed all 170 people on board, including 54 French citizens.

"Six direct authors of this crime were tried and sentenced in absentia to life in prison by the Paris assizes court on March 10, 1999, including Abdullah Al Senussi," Mr Valero said.

He added that "to end the sentence in absentia, a trial with the accused present would need to be held in France", but he did not call for Senussi's extradition to stand trial in France.

"Abdullah Al Senussi must be tried for the crimes he has committed.

"He is notably the subject of procedures at the International Criminal Court," Valero said.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press