Libyan jubilation greets Saif al-Islam's capture

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi denied on Saturday that he had been in contact with the International Criminal Court (ICC) while he had been on the run before his capture by Libyan fighters.

Asked by Reuters on the plane which brought him to the town of Zintan after his capture in the early hours by anti-Gaddafi fighters, he said of reports last month that he had been in indirect contact with ICC officials: “It’s all lies.

“I’ve never been in touch with them.”

The ICC chief prosecutor said last month that he had received, through intermediaries, inquiries from al-Islam about the treatment he might receive if he surrendered to the court at The Hague, which has indicted him for crimes against humanity.

Unlike Libya, which wants to try him for alleged serious crimes committed over many years, the ICC does not have the death penalty.

From the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began, to the western capital of Tripoli, joyful Libyans celebrated the capture of al-Islam.

‘Upper hand’
“Finally we beat him, after pointing at us with his finger on the television and threatening us. Thank God.
We were under his threats and now we have the upper hand after this victory,” said Waleed Fkainy, who fought Gaddafi’s forces in the Western mountains during the uprising.

The British educated Saif al-Islam’s zeal in opposing the revolution that toppled his father undid his image as a reformer. The 39-year-old turned soldier when rebels rose up and staged defiant TV appearances, threatening his father’s enemies and vowing to die on Libyan soil rather than capitulate.

As news of his capture in Libya’s southern desert overnight spread, crowds across the country cheered, waved the new national flag and fired into the air.

“I hope that now we’ve arrested Saif we won’t have to think about the family anymore,” Abdu Salam al-Sghaibi (53) a journalist who was shopping in Benghazi’s old town, said.

In Zintan, crowds mobbed the plane that brought al-Islam there after his capture. Television footage showed him nursing an injured hand though he later said he sustained the injury in a Nato air strike weeks ago.

‘Won’t change anything’
Murad Said, in Tripoli, said: “By God’s will we will become better and better in the wake of the capture of Saif al-Islam. We will start the battle to build Libya away from the control of Gaddafi the tyrant and his cronies.”

In Benghazi, several people said they hoped his fingers had been cut off, a reference to a television interview during the revolution, in which he threatened rebels, pointing his index finger and gesticulating.

“We expected that his fingers would be cut off,” said Karim Gaddari, an unemployed 29-year-old.

The few people who had gathered at the city’s Freedom Square, where weeks ago thousands had feted Gaddafi’s death, quickly dispersed.

“It won’t change anything. He has no influence any more,” said Osama Omar al-Mehdoui (38) shopping for revolutionary souvenirs.

Gaddafi was killed a month ago after being captured in his home town of Sirte.

The European Union and Nato, which wound up a seven-month operation in Libya at the end of October, called on Libya’s new rulers to ensure al-Islam received justice in cooperation with the ICC.

He was indicted, along with his father, for crimes against humanity over his alleged role in killing demonstrators.

“This is the final chapter of the Libyan drama,” Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said. “We will put him on trial in Libya and he will be judged by Libyan law for his crimes.”

“I am happy and sad. Happy because we were able to capture him, sad because they will hand him over to the ICC,” said Qais Abdel Nasser (29) a soccer player in Benghazi’s old town.

“Of course he should be tried in Libya. It’s not just me who thinks so. All Libyans want him to be tried here.”—Reuters-AFP

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