Relatives of Libya’s Gaddafi-era intelligence chief, jailed for his alleged role in a bloody crackdown during the crisis in the country in 2011, took to the streets to protest in Tripoli on Saturday to demand his release.
Abdullah al-Senussi, a brother-in-law of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was sentenced to death in 2015 over the part he allegedly played in the regime’s response to a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed Kadhafi.
Eight others close to Gaddafi, including the Libyan leader’s son, Seif al-Islam, also received death sentences following a trial condemned by the United Nations as “seriously” flawed.
Several dozen relatives and members of Senussi’s tribe, the Magerha, gathered in a central Tripoli square to demand he be freed over health concerns.
“The law and medical reports support our legitimate demand,” said one protester, Mohamad Amer.
Officials have not released specific details on his alleged health problems.
In a statement, the Magerha said his liberation would “contribute to and consolidate national reconciliation” in a country torn apart by inter-communal conflicts since Gaddafi’s fall.
The unusual protest comes just over a month after the release on health grounds of Abuzeid Dorda, Gaddafi’s head of foreign intelligence who was sentenced at the same time as Senussi.
The protesters held up photos of Senussi behind bars and placards reading “Freedom to prisoners. Yes to national reconciliation”.
Senussi was extradited in September 2012 by Mauritania, where he had fled after Gaddafi’s fall.
Like the dictator’s son, he had also been the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for suspected war crimes during the 2011 uprising.
But in an unusual move, in 2013 the court gave Libyan authorities the green light to put him on trial.
He has since been detained in the capital, along with some 40 other senior Gaddafi-era officials including the dictator’s last prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.
Seif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s son, was captured and imprisoned by an armed group in the northwestern city of Zintan and sentenced by a Tripoli court in absentia.
The group announced his release in 2017 but it was never confirmed and his fate remains unknown.