Mauritania shipped the man who served as spy chief to deposed Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi to Libya on Wednesday, where the prime minister assured reporters he would get a fair trial, according to local and international media.
Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law to the late Kadafi, was arrested in Mauritania in March. The West African country had planned to put him on trial for illegally entering the country, but Libya protested that he should be sent back to face much graver charges of crimes against humanity.
Pictures spread on social media Wednesday showed a thickly bearded Senussi getting off a plane. A video clip showed bystanders chanting, "The blood of the martyrs will not go in vain," as Senussi left the helicopter and got into a black vehicle, the Associated Press reported.
Libyans believe Senussi was behind a notorious prison massacre that killed roughly 1,200 inmates in 1996. Senussi also faces a warrant for his arrest from the International Criminal Court, which alleges he was an "indirect perpetrator" of murder and persecution, which are crimes against humanity.
The question of where he should be brought to trial led to a tug of war among the countries and the international court. His extradition followed the arrival of a Libyan delegation in Mauritania earlier this week; a Mauritanian government source told Reuters that the Libyan officials had given guarantees concerning Senussi, but would not specify what they were.
"The extradition of Senussi sends a message to the remnants of the pro-Kadafi elements who are now outside Libya that they will be hunted down and brought back to face justice in Libya," the Tripoli Post declared in a report Wednesday on the extradition.
The Libyan push to try former members of the Kadafi regime such as Senussi has worried human rights groups, who fear the thirst for revenge could undermine fair trials.
"Instead of extraditing Abdullah Senussi back to Libya, where he faces an unfair trial and the death penalty for ordinary crimes under national law, Mauritania should have given precedence to the ICC’s surrender request -- he should face the charges of crimes against humanity against him in fair proceedings," Marek Marczyński of Amnesty International said Wednesday.
In addition to seeking Senussi, Libya has also insisted on trying the son of the ousted leader, Seif Islam Kadafi, despite requests from the International Criminal Court to try him abroad. He is expected to go on trial in Libya this month.
Earlier this year, four International Criminal Court delegates were detained in Libya for more than three weeks after meeting with the imprisoned Kadafi son. One of the detained delebates, an attorney assigned to represent Kadafi, said it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial in Libyan courts.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Abdullah Senussi speaks to the press as gunfire erupts all around the Rixos hotel in Tripoli, Libya, on Aug. 21, 2011. Credit: Dario Lopez-Mills / Associated Press