Seif al-Islam, the story of the most controversial man in Libya

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Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, spent around 6 years in prison until a Libyan court recently ordered his release.

Issa al-Saghir, the attorney-general of the Ministry of Justice in the Libyan interim government, said on Tuesday that Saif al-Islam has been released by power of law. Saif has been the most controversial man in Libya ever since the revolution which erupted against his father’s rule in 2011.

The revolution killed his father and brothers and pushed his family members to flee the country. However many Libyans and tribes remained loyal to the Qaddafi regime and although Saif was arrested in November 2011 near the town of Ubari, south of the country, while he was trying to flee the country, he remained these people’s hope to restore the regime.

Seif was born in 1972 in Tripoli to Moammar Qaddafi and his second wife Safia Farkash. He went to study in London and returned home with many liberal ideas which allowed him to promote the image of the moderate and open man.

Also read: WATCH: Saif al-Islam Qaddafi freed by Libyan court

He was the closest to his father and influenced many decisions and he was viewed as his father’s heir. People also believed he was capable of achieving reform and change in the country especially after he defended human rights and performed charity work.

Seif holds a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics, and he is fluent in English and French. His father tasked him with negotiating with international officials on several matters and he mediated to secure the release of political detainees in the country.

Seif headed the Qaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation which was founded in 1998. He was granted the rank of major in the Libyan army although he did not join any military institution. When the revolution erupted, he led an army battalion to fight the rebels but was eventually defeated by NATO forces.

In November 2011 and as he was in the desert traveling to flee to Niger, a Zintan-militia captured him. The Appeal Court in Tripoli ordered executing him for murdering protestors and abuse of power but the Zintan-militia refused to hand him over. He then benefitted from the general amnesty law issued by the parliament in 2015 but he remained imprisoned in Zintan because the International Criminal Court still pursued him.

Also read: Exclusive: Qaddafi’s cousin condemns death sentence of Saif al-Islam

During his time in prison, the ICC sought to have him transferred to try him for war crimes and crimes against humanity but Libya refused to hand him over. During this time, Tripoli’s court held several sessions to try him for corruption and war crimes but he did not attend the sessions for security reasons.

Despite all the charges against him, Saif al-Islam managed to become free again. His presence is a matter of controversy in Libya as some think it’s important for him to be present in the political scene while others don’t.

Many tribes which fought by his father’s side see him as Libya’s savior and the atmosphere for his return to political work has been prepared by establishing a party for him to lead.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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