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Libya, France, ICC want to try Kadhafi spy chief

By AFP

NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) - Tripoli, Paris, and The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) all competed Sunday to put Libya's ex-spy chief on trial after he was picked up in Mauritania.

France and the ICC have submitted demands for the extradition of Abdullah Senussi, brother-in-law to slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi, a Mauritanian official said. Interpol, the international police organisation, announced it had submitted a similar demand at Libya's request.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Libya's ruling National Transitional Council is expected in Mauritania soon to demand that the 62-year-old fugitive be handed over to Tripoli for trial.

Senussi, one of the former Libyan regime's most feared men, was detained Friday night at Nouakchott airport after arriving on a regular flight from Casablanca in Morocco, using a false passport.

A Mauritanian official said Sunday that his country has so far received two requests for Senussi's extradition.

"One from France arrived on Saturday and the second from the ICC on Sunday," the Mauritanian source told AFP.

Interpol meanwhile announced it had issued a so-called "red notice" for Senussi on behalf of Libya "for fraud offenses including embezzling public funds and misuse of power for personal benefit".

Libya's Justice Minister Ali Hmeida Ashur told AFP on Sunday that his country was determined to try Senussi.

"Our courts are very good, even excellent, especially in Tripoli and we are able to carry out his trial according to international standards," he said.

Amnesty international on Saturday said that Senussi should be tried by the ICC in the absence of a functioning judiciary in Libya.

Mauritanian legal expert Brahim Ould Ebetty warned that the extradition requests would have to be examined by a court and a final decision could "take some time if rules and procedures are followed."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday hailed the arrest and called for Senussi's extradition to France, his office said.

Ebetty said France has "the best argument to make" for extradition.

Senussi faced an international arrest warrant after a Paris court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment for involvement in the downing of a French airliner in 1989.

The airliner was brought down by a bomb on September 19, 1989 over Niger. The UTA flight was carrying 170 people from Brazzaville to Paris via N'Djamena.

That attack -- along with that a year earlier against a PanAm jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people were killed -- led to a UN-mandated air blockade of Libya in 1992.

No bilateral agreement for extradition exists between Libya and Mauritania. However a diplomatic source said the country may rely on a judicial assistance agreement linking countries of the Arab League.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Senussi on June 27, saying he was an "indirect perpetrator of crimes against humanity, of murder and persecution based on political grounds" committed in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Senussi could also be held accountable in Libya for the Abu Salim prison massacre of 1996 when more than 1,000 detainees were gunned down.

Police in Mauritania, which was not a party to the treaty that set up the ICC, said officials there wanted to investigate Senussi with Interpol before considering any extradition requests.

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