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Libya releases Saadi Gaddafi, son of former leader

Saadi Gaddafi fled for Niger during the uprising in 2011. Source: Reuters

TRIPOLI: Libyan authorities have released Saadi Gaddafi, a son of the former leader Muammar Gaddafi who was ousted and killed during a 2011 uprising.

Saadi Gaddafi, 48, fled for Niger during the Nato-backed uprising, but was extradited to Libya in 2014 and has been imprisoned since then in Tripoli. Following his release, he immediately departed on a plane to Istanbul, sources told a news agency.

Libya has suffered chaos, division and violence in the decade since the uprising. The Government of National Unity was installed in March as part of a peace push that was also meant to include elections planned for December.

Saadi’s release resulted from negotiations that included senior tribal figures and Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh. The negotiations reportedly also involved former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

In 2018 the Justice Ministry said Saadi Gaddafi had been found not guilty of “murder, deception, threats, enslavement and defamation of the former player Bashir Rayani”.

Al-Riani, a former footballer and coach with Tripoli’s Al-Ittihad football club, went missing on the night of 23 December 2014. According to one of his cousins, the family had no idea he was dead until three days later when a local hospital telephoned to say his body had been found dumped in a street showing signs of a severe beating.

In July, the New York Times said it had interviewed Saadi’s brother, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who was held for years in the town of Zintan, as his supporters indicate he will run in the presidential elections planned for December.

Saif al-Islam has not appeared publicly since he was captured in the Libyan desert by rebels in 2011, following the overthrow and subsequent killing of his father. He was sentenced to death in 2015, but was freed two years later and went into hiding, reportedly remaining in Zintan.

Forces loyal to Libya’s eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally turned defector, are reportedly keen to prevent Saif al-Islam’s return to the political scene.

According to pro-Gaddafi outlets, Haftar’s son Saddam – who is also reportedly considering a presidential run – sought to have him killed recently. Three of Gaddafi’s seven sons died during the 2011 uprising.