TRIPOLI Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will not escape justice and should be tried in Libya for murder, corruption and "many things" before an international court questions him, the country's interim justice minister said on Monday.
Mohammed al-Alagi said he did not want Saif al-Islam, now on the run, to meet the same fate as his father, former leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was beaten, abused and shot after forces of Libya's National Transitional Council captured him on October 20.
But he said anything could happen if there was a battle when Saif al-Islam was found.
"It depends when and where they got him. If he was under fire, in crossfire, for example, nobody could guarantee he would survive. But if they arrested him, I think he would be safe," Alagi told Reuters in an interview.
NTC officials have said Gaddafi was killed in crossfire, but widely circulated video footage of him in the hands of his captors suggests otherwise.
"It's better if he (Saif al-Islam) faces trial in Libya but that needs guarantees of a fair trial of international standards. The Libyan justice system is normal. The Libyan justice system should try him here first and then, if he needs to, he can face international justice," Alagi said.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants to try the 39-year-old for crimes against humanity. Its prosecutor said on Sunday he had "substantial evidence" that the London-educated Saif al-Islam had helped hire mercenaries to attack Libyan protesters against his father's 42-year rule.
Alagi said he would like to see him tried by the Hague-based court to show the world what he had done, but said the legal process would depend largely on where he was found.
"If he's in Libya we will arrest him. If he's outside, the ICC will arrest him. If he's in a country that has signed the Rome statute (that set up the court), he will be arrested. I'm not worried that he'll escape," he said.
He will be charged with "killing people, stealing money, corruption ... They will find many things to charge him with."
Alagi said he had been in contact with the ICC but declined to say what had been discussed.
Saif al-Islam may be heading for Niger, which risks upsetting its own pro-Gaddafi Tuareg nomads if it hands him over to the ICC in line with its treaty obligations. It has promised to do so if the wanted man shows up on its territory.
The fugitive Libyan has been in indirect contact with the ICC over a possible surrender, although he may hope that mercenaries could spirit him to a friendly African country.
Algeria, which took in Saif al-Islam's mother, sister, brother Hannibal and half-brother Mohammed, is not a signatory to the treaty that set up the ICC. Nor is Sudan or Zimbabwe.
Alagi said he did not know which intermediaries Saif al-Islam was using and that Libya's new rulers were not involved.
Asked if he believed NTC fighters would kill Saif al-Islam, he said: "I hope not really. I would not like to see that happen, I think he will face trial in Libya or outside Libya.
"Myself, I want to see him tried in the ICC. I want the international community to see what he did."
(Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Alistair Lyon)