Mauritania likely to extradite Libyan spy chief to FranceBy
Abdullah al-Senussi to be sent to France, sources say, despite calls from Libya and the ICC for his extradition to them
The extradition race for Abdullah al-Senussi – the Gaddafi regime’s last high-profile fugitive – has intensified, as more details emerge about France’s role in his arrest in Mauritania.
Sources said the former Libyan spy chief, who was arrested in the west African country on Saturday, would be extradited to France despite growing calls from both Libya and the international criminal court for his extradition.
A source in Mauritania told the Guardian that France – which is reported to have assisted in Senussi’s capture – had already reached an agreement over his extradition before he was arrested. They said the French had been pursuing Senussi for some time and were working with the Mauritanian authorities to plan his arrest at Nouakchott airport.
“The French have been pursuing Senussi for several weeks and deliberately waited for him to arrive in Mauritania before arresting him together with the Mauritanian authorities,” said the source, who is close to the Mauritanian government. “France enjoys privileged relations with Mauritania and it is unlikely that they will not come up top in this competition for Senussi.”
Gaddafi’s brother-in-law is wanted in France in absentia for a terrorist attack on a French airliner, which exploded over Niger in 1989, killing 170 people, including 54 French nationals. Although he has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment for the attack, experts say he would face a retrial if extradited to France.
Despite claims that Senussi will be sent to France, the Libyan National Transitional Council stepped up its efforts to place him on trial in Tripoli. A delegation led by the deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, met President Ould Abdel Aziz on Tuesday morning, urging him to hand over the fugitive.
“We are determined to take back Abdallah al-Senussi because he has committed crimes against Libyans, so that he can be judged in Libya by Libyan justice,” Shagour said.
But in a new twist to the saga, the international criminal court said it may take legal action against France if the country – which is a fully fledged member of the court – sought to try him domestically rather than co-operating in his extradition to the Hague.
“If France seeks to extradite Senussi, or to have first national procedures before surrendering him to the court, that is a matter that would be debated before the judges. I cannot anticipate what their decision would be,” Fadi el-Abdullah, spokesman for the court, told the Guardian. “There is a valid warrant of arrest against Senussi now, and we are asking for his surrender from Mauritania or from any other state.”
Despite a formal request by the ICC for co-operation from Mauritania, the country has yet to respond, Abdullah said.
“The ICC has sent a request for co-operation and asking for conformation that Senussi has been arrested and for him to be surrendered to the ICC. We have not received any response to date. We remind Mauritania that although it is not a state party, it has been urged by UN Security Council Resolution 1970 to co-operate with the court on the Libya situation.”
Further details have emerged regarding Senussi’s arrest. Reportedly being held at the headquarters of Mauritania’s security service in Nouakchott, Senussi was carrying a Malian passport that was obtained illegally, a source told the Guardian.
“Senussi was not travelling on a fake passport, but an illegally obtained genuine one,” the source said. “These are harder for border police to identify and are usually resolved through tip-offs, for example by intelligence services.”
The Mauritanian government, which has confirmed it is holding Senussi in detention, has yet to comment on any plans to extradite him.
from Afua Hirsch