x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mauritania deny they will hand over Qaddafi's ex-spy chief to Libya

Nasser Al Manei, a Libyan official, earlier said Nouakchott had given their agreement for the extradition of Abdullah Al Senussi, though a government official says Libya's declaration is trying to force Mauritania's hand.

NOUAKCHOTT // A high-ranking government official is denying Libya's claims that Mauritania had agreed to hand over one of Muammar Qaddafi' ex-intelligence chief for trial in Tripoli.

Nasser Al Manei, a Libyan official, earlier said Nouakchott "had given their agreement for the extradition of Abdullah Al Senussi to Libya so he can be judged by a fair process".

However, the official, who is close to the negotiations and requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussion, said "Mauritania had given no assurances whatsoever to Libya regarding handing over Al Senussi."

He added that Libya had gone ahead with the declaration in order to "force Mauritania's hand".

Al Senussi is accused of attacking civilians during the uprising in Libya last year and of the 1989 bombing of a French airliner. He was considered Qaddafi's "black box" and known to be among his inner circle of confidants. He was also the ousted leader's brother-in-law.

He was detained on Saturday in Mauritania.

The International Criminal Court, France and Libya have all said they want to prosecute Al Senoussi.

He is wanted in Libya for a number of crimes, including his alleged role in the Abu Salim prison massacre of more than 1,200 prisoners by Qaddafi's regime in 1996.

Judges at the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Al Senussi last June on two counts of crimes against humanity - murder and persecution - for allegedly masterminding attacks on civilians in the early days of the uprising that eventually toppled Qaddafi from power.

Mauritania is not a member of the court.

The court also indicted Qaddafi but he was killed by rebel fighters in October. Libyan authorities say they want to put Saif Al Islam, one of Qaddafi's sons, on trial at home instead of turning him over him to the court.

Libyan officials are currently holding Saif Al Islam, who was arrested in November by fighters in Libya's remote southern desert. The former heir apparent has been held largely without access to the outside world ever since.

France convicted Al Senussi and five other Libyans in absentia and sentenced them to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a passenger jet over Niger that killed all 170 people on board including 54 French people. The French government asked last year that he be handed over to France when captured.