- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2012

The extradition of Libya’s former prime minister from Tunis on Sunday has raised concern about his safety and created a rift between Tunisia’s Islamist prime minister and its liberal president.

Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who served as prime minister in Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from March 2006 until he fled to Tunisia last year, has been transferred to a Libyan prison controlled by the Justice Ministry.

Mr. al-Mahmoudi’s extradition to Libya puts him at risk of being tortured or executed without trial, the human rights group Amnesty International said Monday.

The case sparked tension between Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who approved Mr. al-Mahmoudi’s extradition, and President Moncef Marzouki, who had opposed it out of concern for the Libyan’s safety.

Mr. Jebali is from the moderate Islamist Ennahda party. Mr. Marzouki, a former human rights activist, belongs to the liberal Congress for the Republic.

A Tunisian court of appeal in November approved Mr. al-Mahmoudi’s extradition to Libya, but it was blocked by Mr. Marzouki.

Mr. Jebali’s spokesman and two Cabinet ministers said that by allowing Mr. al-Mahmoudi’s extradition, the government merely had acted on the court’s ruling.

However, it is the Tunisian president who has the final say on extraditions.

Mr. Marzouki has denied authorizing Mr. al-Mahmoudi’s extradition, and his spokesman called the decision illegitimate.

Amnesty International condemned authorities in Tunis for handing Mr. al-Mahmoudi over to Libyan officials.

“While all perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to justice, by extraditing al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Tunisian authorities have not only violated their own law but also their international obligation not to return anyone to a country where they are at risk of human rights violations,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. al-Mahmoudi was arrested in September when he illegally crossed into Tunisia after Gadhafi’s forces lost control of Tripoli.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in Libya in which detainees signed confessions after being tortured. It also has evidence of at least 20 cases of deaths in custody in Libya since August.

Gadhafi and one of his sons, Mutassim Gadhafi, were killed in the custody of Libyan rebel militias in October.

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

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