, TRIPOLI, Apr 18 – International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday in a surprise visit, an AFP photographer said.
The fate of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, is expected to top the agenda after Libyan officials repeatedly expressed their desire to try him locally.
Ocampo’s three-day visit will permit him to “continue seeking the cooperation of the government of Libya,” the ICC said in a statement, without elaborating.
He is due to meet senior Libyan officials including Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, and interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahman al-Kib.
A military official in the town of Zintan, where Seif is being held, told AFP that they “expect a visit from Ocampo after he talks with interim government officials in Tripoli.”
Seif, who was arrested on November 19 in southern Libya, is being held in a secret detention in Zintan, 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Tripoli.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for him in February 2011, when pro-Gaddafi forces sought to crush a popular uprising with brutal force.
On April 4, it issued a ruling calling for his immediate transfer from Libyan custody to prison in The Hague.
Libya appealed that request on April 10 and the interim authorities have repeatedly stated that Seif should be tried by a court in the North African nation.
But Zintan officials have been reticent to hand over Seif to the interim government, with the negotiations hitting a brick wall this week.
On Tuesday, an NTC negotiator told AFP that a delegation seeking to obtain his release encountered “resistance” in Zintan.
Zintan officials reportedly told NTC representatives that people in the town “want Seif to be tried locally because the (interim) government is weak.”
They consider the “interim government incapable of conducting a secure trial for Seif al-Islam” and unable to prevent him from fleeing Libya in the same way that other members of the regime have, the negotiator said.
Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil weighed in on the debate during a second round of talks on the issue held in Tripoli on Tuesday, the same source said.
Abdel Jalil stressed “it is necessary for Seif al-Islam to be transferred to Tripoli” in order to “relieve the pressure” exercised by the International Criminal Court on the Libyan authorities, he said.
The NTC also highlighted that it would be “difficult” for the international community to accept a “trial controlled by revolutionaries,” or former rebels who fought against Gaddafi’s forces in 2011.
Zintan officials requested “time to think about it and consult with residents before answering,” the same source added.