Libya court suspends trial of top Gaddafi-era intelligence official

TRIPOLI Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:59am EDT

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A Libyan judge suspended the trial of a senior Gaddafi-era intelligence official on Tuesday after his defense lawyer said the proceedings were unconstitutional.

Charges against Buzeid Dorda, arrested last September in Tripoli, include killing civilians, providing weapons to kill civilians, and conspiring to provoke civil war.

"The trial has been suspended until the Supreme Court looks at an appeal I raised that could deem the trial unconstitutional," defense lawyer Dhao Al-Mansouri Awon said.

Pre-revolution laws governing emergency courts, called the People's Court, were still in use despite being banned after the uprising which toppled Muammar Gaddafi last year, Awon said.

Under People's Court laws, which the Gaddafi administration used to try opposition members and political prisoners, one or more people with no legal training could pass judgments without the need for a judge, jury or lawyers to be present in court.

"Even though the court itself was cancelled, the law governing it is still functioning and that would make the trials invalid," Awon told Reuters.

Dorda had said in July he had been denied the right to meet privately with a lawyer and had been subjected to illegal interrogations during his 10 months in detention.

His trial, which began on June 5, has been adjourned several times for procedural reasons.

Libya's new rulers want to try Gaddafi's family members and loyalists at home, but human rights activists worry that a weak central government and a lack of rule of law could rob them of the right to a fair trial.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Alagy told reporters that the trials of Gaddafi-era officials were "invalid" because the prosecutor general's office was not following the necessary legal procedure and was also using People's Court laws.

Under Libyan law, an Indictment Chamber reviews cases and then refers them to the appropriate court. But Alagy said prosecutors were bypassing this body and demanded they review their procedures and the legal rights of those held in custody.

Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son, is awaiting trial on war crimes charges and Abdullah al-Senussi, Libya's former spy chief known as "Gaddafi's black box", is also expected to be put on trial. He was arrested last week.

On Sunday, prosecutors said Saif al-Islam's trial, which was due to begin this month, will be delayed by five months to include any relevant testimony obtained from the interrogation of Senussi.

In July, an International Criminal Court lawyer who had been detained in Libya for three weeks on spying allegations said her experience had shown it was impossible for Saif al-Islam to get a fair trial in his home country.

(Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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