REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- The International Criminal Court warned Friday that authorities may intercept any aircraft linked to a mercenary-backed scheme to shield Moammar Kadafi’s wanted son from arrest.
The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said his office has had “informal contact” with Seif Islam Kadafi, once regarded as the heir apparent to his late father.
Mercenaries have offered to help the fugitive escape to an African nation that does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, Moreno-Ocampo said. The prosecutor did not identify the nation.
Prosecutors are “exploring the possibility” of intercepting any aircraft in order to make an arrest, Moreno-Ocampo said.
The court has issued a warrant against Kadafi for crimes against humanity allegedly committed earlier this year as his father’s security forces cracked down on protesters. The London-educated son, once the public reformist face of his father’s regime, publicly threatened dissidents.
Moammar Kadafi’s second-eldest son has remained at large despite a manhunt. The former leader and his younger son, Mutassim, were killed last week during aclimactic battle for the coastal city of Surt.
Reports indicated that Seif Islam Kadafi escaped earlier this month from Bani Walid, another stronghold of the former regime, before opposition forces overran the town.
The younger Kadafi has variously been reported to be in southern Libya's Saharan expanses and in the neighboring nation of Niger, by some accounts under the protection of Tuareg tribesmen, beneficiaries of his father's largess. There has been speculation that the Kadafis may have spirited vast amounts of cash, gold and other valuables out of Libya, but no proof has emerged.
Seif Islam Kadafi remains a fugitive from the international court along with his uncle, Abdullah Sanoussi, longtime chief enforcer for the regime. Sanoussi has been reported to be in Niger and elsewhere in Central Africa, where the elder Kadafi had many allies.
Amid allegations that Moammar Kadafi was summarily executed, the ICC prosecutor vowed Friday that Seif Islam Kadafi "is innocent until proven guilty" before the international court. Once the case is completed, the prosecutor said, he could request that the judges send him to a country other than Libya “as long as that country accepts him.”
Another surviving Kadafi son, Saadi Kadafi, has said the deaths of his father and brother in Surt last week demonstrate that no Kadafi can receive a fair trial in revolutionary Libya. The country’s new rulers have said the entire family should be brought back to their homeland to face justice for corruption and other alleged crimes.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: Seif Islam Kadafi, left, son of deceased Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, and Abdullah Sanoussi, former head of Libyan Intelligence Service. Credit: Paul Hackett / Reuters