Muammar Qaddafi’s last premier, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who was controversially extradited from Tunisia to Libya to face justice, said on Tuesday that he was innocent.
“I am not guilty, not guilty, not guilty,” Mahmoudi told journalists during a visit to his prison organized by the authorities in an apparent bid to quash rumors that he had been tortured on his arrival in Libya.
“I am ready to be tried by the Libyan people. I am sure of myself and of my innocence,” a tired but healthy looking Mahmoudi said.
Mahmoudi, speaking calmly but in a tone tinged with sadness, said he was being questioned by judicial authorities almost daily and that his family would soon appoint a lawyer to defend him.
He denied reports that he was tortured upon his arrival in Libya.
“I am in front of you and in good health. There was no assault against me. Reports that I was tortured, all of that was lies,” he said, speculating that they reflected a “political agenda.”
Libyan journalists grilled Mahmoudi on why he had stood with Qaddafi until the end of his regime, which was toppled by a popular uprising that escalated into civil war last year.
“My defense will be in front of the court,” Mahmoudi said.
From March 5, 2006 through the war of 2011, Mahmoudi was the Secretary of the General People’s Committee, the equivalent of the country’s prime minister.
The Tunisian government last week decided to extradite al-Mahmoudi. The post-revolutionary Libyan government considers it a measure of the country’s transformation that trials of people like Mahmoudi and Qaddafi’s imprisoned son, Seif al-Islam, will be held in Libya.
But the news of Mahmoudi’s extradition last week was met with anger from Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki who disliked the fact that Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali ordered Mahmoudi’s transfer to Libya without his consent.
Marzouki had always opposed the extradition, arguing that Libya’s new regime offered insufficient guarantees of a fair trial and on the grounds that the former Libyan official risked torture or death.
In Tunisia last week, opposition parties staged a walkout at parliament to protest the government’s decision to extradite Mahmoudi. The assembly’s speaker had refused to alter the day’s agenda and open a discussion on the extradition.