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Coffee House

Saif Gaddafi captured — but what now?

19 November 2011

6:14 PM

19 November 2011

6:14 PM

Remember when Saif Gaddafi was the Anointed One of those who wanted a freer, more liberal Libya? Now, he’s at the mercy of militiamen in the city of Zintan, having been captured today. It leaves
Abdullah al-Senussi, the former intelligence chief, as the most infamous member of the old regime still on the run.

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The details of the capture are still hazy, like so much else during Libya’s revolution. What’s striking is that, unlike his father, Saif Gaddafi appears to have been unharmed by the process.
Reuters are sure they spoke with him earlier today (although the man wouldn’t confirm his identity), and the
only wounds he was carrying were, he claimed, sustained during a Nato air strike, ‘one month ago’. These facts have led some — including an analyst in the Al-Jazeera video clip
above — to suppose that this ‘capture’ may be more a negotiated surrender by Gaddafi, weeks in the making.

What happens next is, as yet, equally uncertain. The nascent Libyan government is stressing that Saif Gaddafi will be granted that which Muammar Gaddafi was denied: a trial, and on Libyan soil too.
But the militia that currently holds him says they won’t hand him over until due processes are in place. And, in the meantime, the ICC is sniffing around, likely
suspicious of Libya’s capacity to put any Gaddafi to justice. What they will want to avoid is a show trial, where the execution of Saif Gaddafi is reached as inevitably and almost as swiftly as
that of his father.

All in all, this capture — however it came about — is a testing moment for the new administration in Libya. With Egyptian security forces once again clashing with protestors in Tahrir Square, the West will be looking for assurances that the Arab
Spring hasn’t just swept in new tyrants in place of the old.

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