Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

The price of extradition

The prosecutor-general’s extradition of three top aides of the former Libyan regime to Tripoli has stirred wide legal debate and raised questions about possible hidden motives, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

The arrest of a close aide of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Cairo last week and the approval of the Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdallah to hand two more former Al-Gaddafi strongmen over to Tripoli ended a year of tense relations between Egypt and Libya.

One of the main reasons behind the tense relations was Egypt’s hosting of some of Gaddafi’s former associates, including his cousin and close aide Ahmed Gaddaf Al-Dam, formerly the coordinator of Egyptian-Libyan relations.

On Sunday, Abdallah ordered the extradition to Libya of Ali Maria, former Libyan ambassador to Egypt, and Mohamed Ibrahim, brother of former Libyan information minister Moussa Ibrahim, who were arrested in Cairo on 19 March.

The announcement was hailed by Tripoli, which revealed on the same day as Abdallah’s decision that it would help Egypt’s economy by depositing the sum of $2 billion in the Central Bank of Egypt.

On Tuesday, authorities at Cairo Airport took over the procedure of extraditing Maria and Ibrahim to Tripoli after the men were handed over to Egyptian Interpol. According to officials in Egyptian Interpol, the move was part of a prisoner swap under which Egypt is expected to hand members of the former Gaddafi regime over to Tripoli in return for Egyptians detained in Libya.

The officials revealed to the MENA news agency that the Libyan government had asked Egypt last year to arrest nearly 40 figures from the former regime. A Libyan delegation that visited Cairo last week provided the Egyptian side with a list of another 88 figures to be arrested and extradited to Libya.

Maria handed himself in at his residence in Sheikh Zayed on the outskirts of Cairo after three hours of negotiations with the Egyptian security forces.

The swap deal does not include Gaddaf Al-Dam, who was arrested in Cairo on the same day as Maria and Ibrahim, prosecution-general spokesperson Mustafa Dawoud said on Monday.

“Investigations into Maria and Ibrahim met the necessary legal requirements for their extradition,” Dawoud confirmed. “However, we are still working on the case of Gaddaf Al-Dam and waiting for documents from Tripoli that will prove that he committed crimes.”

Kamal Girgis, the prosecution’s international cooperation chief, said that Egypt and Libya had an official agreement to hand over criminals to each other on request. 

Girgis said that the prosecutor-general had received a request a few months ago from Interpol demanding the arrest of a group of former Libyan officials in Egypt who were charged with being involved in corruption cases during Gaddafi’s rule.

He added that there were two conditions that had to be met before any person could be handed over to Libya, including evidence that the person had committed crimes under Libyan law and a guarantee from Libya that he or she would get a fair trial before regular judges.

Following the announcement of Egypt’s intention to extradite the former officials, the Libyan ambassador to Cairo Mohamed Jibril announced that his country would deposit $2 billion in the Egyptian Central Bank.

The Libyan deposit is tantamount to an open-ended loan to Egypt. In similar arrangements, the depositor has retained the right to withdraw the money, allowing Egypt to use it temporarily to pump up its currency supply.

The ambassador said that Libya was considering granting Egypt a share of Libyan reconstruction projects worth LE3 billion through the semi-governmental Arab Contractors Company.

Gaddaf Al-Dam’s lawyer Esmat Al-Mirghani said that he would appeal against his client’s extradition on the grounds that he holds an Egyptian passport because his mother was Egyptian from an area near the Libyan border.

Gaddaf Al-Dam’s mother added in a televised interview with Dream TV on Monday that handing her son over to Libya was not legal as he was born to Egyptian parents in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya. 

She claimed that her client’s name on his Egyptian birth certificate was “Gomaa” and not Gaddaf Al-Dam. “I will give all the necessary documents to Egypt’s prosecutor-general to prove that Gaddaf Al-Dam is an Egyptian and therefore is subject to Egyptian law and should not be extradited to Libya,” she said.

She went on to say that Gaddaf Al-Dam’s ancestors had emigrated to Egypt after the Italian colonisation of Libya in the early 20th century.

“We insist that all the accusations levelled against my client are baseless and that they have to be seen in the context of settling political accounts between him and the new Libyan rulers,” Al-Mirghani said.

However, Girgis said Gaddaf Al-Dam also faced Egyptian charges relating to his allegedly acquiring weapons without a licence that police had found in his house in Cairo.

Law expert Ibrahim Darwish said that Gaddaf Al-Dam’s arrest was illegal on the basis that he should have been questioned before his detention order was issued. He added that in order to extradite him there should be a court ruling passed against him by a Libyan court and not only a warrant and “baseless accusations”. 

“Everybody knows that he will not get a fair trial, and until now his trial in Libya has not started, so why should we extradite him to Libya now,” he asked.

Mustafa Bakri, a former MP and a longtime supporter of the Gaddafi regime, said that handing over Gaddaf Al-Dam to Libya was part of an agreement to hand over more than 1,800 Libyans who had been officials in the former regime in exchange for economic benefits.

He noted that at the top of the list of wanted Libyans was Gaddaf Al-Dam who the new Libyan rulers “knew” still had “strong popularity among the tribes”.

“This deal between Egypt and Libya will tarnish the image of Egypt as a country known throughout history to have provided protection to those who sought political asylum in its territory,” he said in testimony published in the Al-Watan newspaper.

Bakri added that Gaddaf Al-Dam had received invitations from France and Russia to accept political asylum but he had chosen Egypt instead. According to Bakri, Egypt’s former military ruler Mohamed Hussein Tantawi had assured him that Egypt would protect him.

“Gaddaf Al-Dam took part in the October 1973 Arab War against Israel alongside Libyan troops, and he supported Egypt against the Libyan regime on numerous occasions. It is sad and shameful that he has now been treated in such a manner, especially since he had received several reassurances from the new rulers only days before he was arrested,” Bakri said.

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