- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One of the sons of ousted strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi was negotiating his own surrender, Libyan rebels said Wednesday, while another son issued a defiant message saying that the regime would fight to the death.

The mixed messages came as the manhunt for Col. Gadhafi intensified and Libyans said they want the dictator to face trial in his homeland — not at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Multiple rebel sources said Saadi Gadhafi, Col. Gadhafi’s third son and commander of the regime’s elite military force, contacted Abdul Hakim El Haj, the rebels’ military commander in Tripoli, and discussed the prospects of his surrender.

“Saadi has been in contact and wants to surrender in return for a guarantee of his safety,” said Mohamed, a rebel spokesman who gave only his first name. “His safety will be guaranteed, but he will not be immune from prosecution.”

Saadi Gadhafi did not indicate whether any other members of his family or the regime had agreed to surrender with him.

But in a statement broadcast on Al Rai television station, Col. Gadhafi’s second son and onetime heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, insisted that the regime will not surrender.

“We are going to die in our land. No one is going to surrender,” he said, according to an Associated Press report. He said he was speaking from a Tripoli suburb and that his father was fine.

Earlier this week, Col. Gadhafi’s second wife, Sofia, sons Mohammed and Hannibal, and daughter Aisha fled to Algeria with their families.

In Tripoli, Libyans celebrating the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan said they want Col. Gadhafi to face trial in their country. The International Criminal Court in June issued arrest warrants for Col. Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam and the dictator’s brother-in-law and intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. All three are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity. Their whereabouts is unknown.

According to some reports, Col. Gadhafi was last seen in Tripoli on Friday. Seif al-Islam was last seen when he made an appearance at a hotel in Tripoli on Aug. 23.

Rebel sources say Col. Gadhafi is likely hiding in the western city of Bani Walid, his tribal stronghold Sirte or Sebha, a city in the south still controlled by pro-Gadhafi forces.

The rebels’ National Transitional Council has not taken an official position on whether to hand over the three men to the International Criminal Court if they are arrested in Libya.

“The council is weighing its options and biding its time,” said Mohamed, the rebel spokesman. “It is primarily a Libyan problem, so I think they should stand trial here.”

In Tripoli, thousands of people congregated at the Green Square, which the rebels have renamed Martyrs’ Square, to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

A mother of four who declined to give her name out of concern for the safety of her family said in a phone interview with The Times that the prevailing opinion in the capital is that the Gadhafis should be tried in a Libyan court, not the International Criminal Court.

“We trust our new judicial system will work better than the system that was in place during the Gadhafi regime,” she said.

But some Libyans doubt the Gadhafis can get a fair trial in Libya. Mazigh Buzakhar, who was arrested by the regime in Tripoli in December and accused of spying, said Col. Gadhafi and members of his family should be tried at The Hague to ensure a fair trial.

Fadi El Abdallah, a spokesman for the International Criminal Court, said Libyan authorities have an obligation to turn over Col. Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam and Mr. Senussi to the court. The warrants must be implemented in accordance with a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council, he added.

Ibtisam al-Kilani, a Paris-based Libyan lawyer who wants Col. Gadhafi to be tried in Libya, said: “The ICC warrants are for crimes committed after the start of the uprising, but he committed many crimes in the past four decades.”

Meanwhile, rebels negotiating with tribes in Col. Gadhafi’s stronghold of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast set a Saturday deadline for pro-Gadhafi forces to surrender.

The rebels want to take control of the Ghardabiya air base south of Sirte, from where they say the regime has fired Scud missiles.

Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Gadhafi regime, dismissed calls to surrender. “No dignified, honorable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs,” he said in a phone interview with the Associated Press.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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