TRIPOLI, June 13 – International Criminal Court (ICC) envoys were eventually allowed a visit on Tuesday to four colleagues held in the Libyan hilltown of Zintan after an initial refusal, an official told AFP.
“I can confirm that the ICC delegation entered Zintan and visited their colleagues,” Ahmed al-Jehani, who is the Libyan envoy to the Hague-based tribunal, told AFP.
ICC lawyer Melinda Taylor and three of her colleagues were transferred to a prison in Zintan on Sunday, the same day that the ICC delegation arrived in Tripoli to negotiate their release with the Libyan authorities.
“There were some problems entering Zintan in the beginning but they were allowed in,” Jehani said, adding that the delegation was accompanied by the ambassadors of Australia, Lebanon, Russia and Spain.
Ajmi al-Atiri, commander of the brigade that detained Australian lawyer Taylor and three of her colleagues after a meeting with Moamer Kadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, said the delegation arrived without clearance.
“The ICC convoy arrived by land without the necessary authorisation so we turned them back,” Atiri said.
Negotiations reportedly ensued and the delegation was allowed in after the defence ministry sent documentation in support of the ICC visit.
Tripoli accuses Taylor of exchanging documents that represent a threat to national security with Seif al-Islam, who has been held in Zintan since his capture on November 19 last year.
The Libyan authorities allege that Taylor was carrying a coded letter from Mohammed Ismail, Seif al-Islam’s right hand man, who is on the run.
Lebanese interpreter Helene Assaf, who has worked for the ICC since 2005, is being held on suspicion of being an “accomplice,” according to Jehani.
There have been conflicting reports on the fate of Russian Alexander Khodakov and Esteban Peralta Losilla from Spain.
The international tribunal says that they are in custody with their female colleagues. Libya’s attorney general’s office and commander Ajmi have confirmed to AFP that all four were transferred to prison.
But Jehani repeated on Tuesday that the two men stayed behind out of solidarity with their colleagues, insisting that they are free to go and under house arrest not in a prison cell.
“They can return when they want,” he said.
Jehani said he was “optimistic” that the full ICC team would be able to go home soon after “positive meetings” at the foreign ministry.
“I hope that there will be a solution very soon,” he said.
“Helene’s outlook is not bad. The main person accused is Melinda. But the accused is innocent until proven guilty. I am optimistic… even for Melinda,” Jehani told AFP.
Both the Hague-based tribunal and the Australian government have called for their “immediate release.”