Tripoli 9 March:
Qaddafi’s last prime minister, Baghdadi Mahmoudi is starving himself to death in his Tunisian prison cell, claimed one of . . .[restrict]this lawyers last night.
In a Facebook posting, Bachir Essid said that his client is close to death after a week-long hunger strike. Mahmoudi was arrested last September by Tunisian police, after he had crossed the border from Libya. He was sentenced to six months in jail for illegal entry. This charge was later quashed on appeal but the former premier remained in custody. Since his first arrest, the Libyan government has been seeking his extradition.
Mahmoudi, the most senior member of the old regime to be in custody, has been resisting attempts to send him back to Libya. He had originally claimed to a TV reporter that he had come to Tunisia because he was defecting. Indeed in May he had reportedly approached rebels talking about changing sides, but thereafter had no further contact with them. Moreover his flight, just as Tripoli was falling to the rebels, suggested that, to the last minute, he had remained loyal to Qaddafi.
Besides being prime minister, this medically-trained doctor was also chairman of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority.
Last November, Mahmoudi’s Tunisian lawyers lost their final appeal against his extradition and the refusal of his claim for political asylum. They had argued that their client had been charged with no specific crimes, could not expect a fair trial in Libya and was likely to be tortured there. However it has been suggested that besides more general corruption charges, the Libyan authorities are planning to indict Mahmoudi on a specific allegation that during the fighting, he incited the rape of women in Zouara.
Mahmoudi’s case has been taken up by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They maintain that Libya has yet to develop a proper judicial process and that the government is not yet sufficiently in charge of security, to ensure that Mahmoudi would not be abused or killed while in detention.
During his imprisonment in Tunisia, Mahmoudi, who is a diabetic, has on a number of occasions complained he has been seriously ill. In his current hunger strike, he is reportedly still taking his medicine but neither food nor water. His lawyers are demanding that he be released and given medical attention.
Since the new year, the final decision on his extradition to Libya has rested with Tunisia’s new president, Moncef Marzouki. Himself a long-time human rights campaigner, the president may be reluctant to see Mahmoudi sent home for trial, until it is clear that Libya can meet judicial norms and ensure the accused’s safety.