Monday, December 10, 2012

Show Trial Begins by US-backed Rebels of Former Libyan Prime Minister

Gaddafi's last PM on trial in Libya

December 11, 20128:09AM

MUAMMAR Gaddafi's last prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, accused of aiding the state to kill civilians and financial crimes, has gone on trial in a Libyan court.

A judge read out the charges against Mr Al-Mahmoudi which included "abusing public funds" and "committing acts aiming to unjustly kill people" during the 2011 uprising that toppled Gaddafi.

The highest-ranking former regime official to go before Libyan judges, sat in a caged section of the courtroom and spoke only once during the one-hour hearing, saying "yes" when asked to confirm his presence.

Along with Seif al-Islam, the toppled dictator's most high-profile son, Mr Al-Mahmoudi is one of the few remaining keepers of the many state secrets under Gaddafi, who was killed on October 20 last year.

A physician by training, Mr Al-Mahmoudi was loyal to Gaddafi until the end, serving as premier from 2006 up to the final days of his regime, while also overseeing vast fortunes in the oil-rich nation.

Dressed in a traditional white robe, he sat alongside co-defendants, Al-Mabruk Zahmul and Amer Saleh Tirfas who managed a trade and investment company run by Seif al-Islam.

Mr Al-Mahmoudi made a brief court appearance on November 12 but the start of the trial was adjourned at the request of the prosecution and defence lawyers due to the absence of his co-defendants.

Mr Al-Mahmoudi, Zahmul and Tirfas allegedly funnelled 19 million euros ($A23.95 million) to private accounts in Tunisia, with the money used for logistical support to former regime forces as they sought to crush last year's revolt.

At the request of the defence team, the court decided on Monday to create a panel of expert accountants to review irregular financial transactions and locate missing state funds.

The defence team also put forward a list of witnesses, which included former regime figures some of whom are jailed and others who are wanted by the new authorities.

A new hearing was set for January 14, 2013.

Mr Al-Mahmoudi fled to neighbouring Tunisia in September last year shortly after rebels seized Tripoli and effectively put an end to more than four decades of iron-fisted Gaddafi rule.

He was extradited to Libya to face justice on June 24, despite warnings from rights groups that he could face the death penalty, and has protested his innocence to journalists visiting his prison.

"I am not guilty, not guilty, not guilty," he said at the time.

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