TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A daughter of Muammar Gaddafi’s jailed former intelligence chief accused Libya on Thursday of denying him access to a lawyer, family visits and exercise and she likened his detention to “passive torture”.
Abdullah al-Senussi was one of the late strongman’s most feared associates until his 42-year regime was toppled by rebels in 2011. He was handed over to Libya in September by Mauritania, where he had been arrested with a false Malian passport after arriving on a flight from Morocco.
Senussi is suspected of playing a central role in the killing of more than 1,200 inmates at Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison in 1996. It was the arrest of a lawyer acting for relatives of the victims that sparked the uprising in February 2011.
Senussi’s daughter Sarah appealed to Libyan transitional authorities on behalf of her family to grant him the right to see a lawyer and his family.
“What are the legal guarantees that will be given to Senussi if his basic right to defense is neither respected nor guaranteed?” she said in an email distributed to media.
”We, his family, have asked the Libyan authorities several times to grant us a visit permission to him in order to check on him. But until this day we have not received an answer.
“Isn’t this a sort of passive torture and slow death over a long period of time?” she said, referring to her father’s complaint that he was not allowed to leave his cell to exercise.
Justice Ministry officials were unavailable for comment.
Mohammad al-Alaghi, president of Libya’s independent human rights commission, said any allegations would be thoroughly investigated and no abuses would be tolerated. But he said Senussi had been subjected to no torture since his arrest.
Human Rights Watch said in April it was concerned that Senussi had not yet seen a lawyer or been told what charges he faces. HRW pressed Libya to grant Senussi the rights that Gaddafi’s regime denied its people.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants to try Senussi and Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, also jailed in Libya on suspicion of war crimes. But the Tripoli authorities want the pair to face justice in the North African state.
They have not said when charges and trials will come. But Libyan authorities are now preoccupied with a crisis caused by armed groups besieging several ministries to press demands including the resignation of the prime minister.
Human rights activists worry that a weak government in Tripoli and flimsy judicial standards mean that legal proceedings will not meet international standards.
France, for its part, wants to try Senussi over a 1989 airliner bombing over Niger in which 54 of its nationals died.
Editing by Mark Heinrich