- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s interim leader said Monday he had ordered an investigation into Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s death in response to strong international pressure to determine how the ousted leader was killed by a bullet to the head shortly after he was captured alive.

Transitional leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi that the National Transitional Council has formed a committee to investigate Thursday’s killing amid conflicting reports of how the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years died. Government officials have said initial findings suggest Gadhafi was killed in the crossfire as his supporters clashed with revolutionary forces seizing control of his hometown of Sirte.

But Mr. Abdul-Jalil raised a new possibility on Monday, suggesting that Gadhafi could have been killed by his own supporters to prevent him from implicating them in past misdeeds under his regime.

“Let us question who has the interest in the fact that Gadhafi will not be tried. Libyans want to try him for what he did to them, with executions, imprisonment and corruption,” he said. “Free Libyans wanted to keep Gadhafi in prison and humiliate him as long as possible. Those who wanted him killed were those who were loyal to him or had played a role under him. His is death was in their benefit.”

The United States, Britain and international rights groups have called for an investigation into whether Libya’s former rebels killed a wounded Gadhafi after pulling him out of a drainage pipe in his hometown of Sirte, the last city to fall to revolutionary forces after an eight-month-long civil war.

Critics also have said the gruesome spectacle of his blood-streaked body laid out as a trophy for a fourth day of public viewing in a commercial freezer raises questions about the new leadership’s commitment to the rule of law.

Mr. Abdul-Jalil said the transitional government has established a committee to determine what ultimately to do with Gadhafi’s body and the decisions will be governed by a fatwa, or religious edict, by the head of the Islamic Fatwa society.

Libya’s revolt erupted in February as part of anti-government protests spreading across the Middle East. But Libya’s struggle has been the bloodiest so far in the region. Mass protests turned into a civil war that killed thousands and paralyzed the country. Gadhafi loyalists held out for two more months after the fall of the capital of Tripoli in late August.

Mr. Abdul-Jalil declared the country liberated on Sunday, launching the oil-rich nation on what is meant to be a two-year transition to democracy. But he also laid out plans with an Islamist tone that could rattle their Western backers. He said Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified.

Using Sharia as the main source of legislation is stipulated in the constitution of neighboring Egypt. Still, Egyptian laws remain largely secular as Egypt’s interpretation of Sharia does not cover all aspects of modern life, while Saudi Arabia and Iran apply much stricter interpretations.

Mr. Abdul-Jalil also outlined several changes to align with Islamic law such as banning banks from paying interest and lifting restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men can take. The Muslim holy book, the Quran, allows men up to four wives.

Mindful of the concern, Mr. Abdul-Jalil said Monday he was referring to a temporary constitution and said he wanted to “assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims.”

He also said there will be a referendum on a new constitution after it is drawn up.

Islamist groups stand to gain ground in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt as well, after those countries shook off longtime dictators.

Libyan leaders have said they will form a new interim government within a month of liberation and hold elections for a constitutional assembly within eight months after that.

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