'Show trial': Gaddafi’s son Saif sentenced to death in absentia

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, attends a hearing behind bars in a courtroom in Zintan, June 22, 2014. © Stringer
The trial of Muammar Gaddafi’s son is a show trial from start to finish, basically revenge dressed up as judicial process, says one of Saif Gaddafi's lawyers, John Jones. The name Gaddafi carries with it an assumption of guilt, he adds.

A militia-controlled court has sentenced to death, in absentia, Saif Gaddafi - one of the sons of the country's deposed leader. Eight other leading officials from the former regime were also given the same sentence. They now face execution by firing squad. Gaddafi and the other defendants were found guilty of war crimes during the 2011 revolution. Libya has been hit by instability and unrest ever since the uprising, with rival militia tearing the country apart as they vie for power.

READ MORE: Gaddafi's son, 8 other former government officials sentenced to death by 'Libyan militia'

RT: The trial was held amid claims of intimidation and Gaddafi wasn't present in person. How legitimate is the verdict?

John Jones: No, not at all. I share the view entirely, that you’ve just expressed that this was a show trial from start to finish. It’s a trial which the Minister of Justice of Libya himself said is unlawful, illegal. It’s a trial which has been run by Libya Dawn militia who control the detention center and the trial itself has shown the absolute refusal to accord any fair trial protection and due process protections for the defendants. So no, it’s a totally illegitimate process tainted by many abuses including torture of the detainees.

RT: Is there any chance of appeal? Is there a possibility of Gaddafi being tried not in Libya, but by an international body?

JJ: Yes, there is an appeal but as to whether the appeal will be anything other than a show appeal after a show trial I very much doubt. But for Saif Gaddafi it’s important to know that he is not in the hands of the Tripoli militia, he is in Zintan, which is some hundred miles or more away and so very fortunately for him he is held by a group who do not recognize Tripoli either, and who don’t recognize that trial as having legitimacy.

A man sits in front of two screens showing Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (R), son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, via video-link from a courtroom in Zintan, as well as former officials from the Gaddafi government during a hearing at a courtroom in Tripoli, May 11, 2014. © Ismail Zitouny

RT: It's been reported that they don't plan to hand him over. Can you confirm that?

JJ: No, I don’t see that. One would have to be a close watch of Libyan politics to assess whether there is any risk of that. But from what I have seen Zintan is entirely opposed to Tripoli and indeed during the trial Zintan refused to deliver Saif Gaddafi to Tripoli and so there was a video link set up and after the first couple of links the people in Zintan put up a sign saying “we don’t recognize this, it is an illegitimate trial.” So since they don’t recognize it, I don’t see a risk that they will deliver him.

RT: What message do the people controlling Tripoli want to send by sentencing Saif Gaddafi to death?

JJ: I’m not sure if they are trying to send a message or whether it’s just some naked revenge and reprisals if you like. They have people in custody who are their erstwhile enemies…What you have is basically revenge dressed up as a judicial process.

RT: It seems that if you have the name Gaddafi you are kind of done before you start.

JJ: That’s certainly true. I represent other members of the Gaddafi family, for example, Ayesha Gaddafi, and others. And I find not just in Libya but internationally having the name Gaddafi carries with it an assumption of guilt.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.