Zintani Militia Say They Have Released Saif al-Islam Qadhafi
On 9 June, the Zintani Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion issued a statement saying it had released Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, the son and heir apparent of Muammar Qadhafi. The Zintani militia, which had been holding Saif since 2011, said it was acting on a request from the justice ministry of the House of Representative’s (HoR) Bayda-based government. However, both the Zintan Military Council – which had previously been involved in his detention – and Zintan’s Municipal Council have condemned his release.The HoR’s defense and security committee also criticized the move, showing that opinion among officials in the east is also split.
Saif was sentenced to death in absentia by a Tripoli court in 2015 for war crimes. According to Reuters, a statement posted by the attorney general’s office in Tripoli on 11 June said Saif was still wanted under that conviction and that an investigation had been launched into his reported release.He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, committed during the 2011 uprisings against the Qadhafi regime.
There has not yet been any independent confirmation of his release. Some reports indicate Saif has fled to Tobruk, in eastern Libya. If Saif’s release is confirmed, it is likely to provoke greater tension and hostilities between those who support Saif’s release — and there were celebrations in many towns at the news of his release, including Sebha — and those who condemn it as a miscarriage of justice, further complicating Libya’s chaotic political environment. The Zintanis have used Saif as one of their main bargaining chips since 2011 therefore it is unclear what deal could have been struck with elements within the HoR and the eastern faction to persuade them to release him.