Alleged letters to Gadhafi son prompt Australian probe | News | DW | 10.06.2012
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Alleged letters to Gadhafi son prompt Australian probe

Australian officials are trying to get in contact with a lawyer being detained in Libya for allegedly trying to smuggle papers to Moammar Gadhafi's son. Meanwhile, violence has sparked up in the country's southeast.

The Australian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that they were seeking access to the Australian International Criminal Court (ICC) lawyer currently being detained for allegedly passing on sensitive letters to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam, a government spokesperson said.

"She and three others, who are not Australians, have all been detained," a spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.

"We are attempting to get access to her but have not succeeded."

He added that officials were not aware of why the Australian lawyer, Melinda Taylor, was being held or by whom.

Taylor is amongst four ICC lawyers that were first detained on Thursday. The ICC delegation had travelled to the remote mountain town of Zintan, 180 kilometers southwest of Tripoli, where Saif al-Islam has been held since he was captured last November.

Spying allegations

A watch concealing a camera and a pen with a built-in camera were discovered when the delegates were searched before their scheduled meeting with Saif al-Islam, the Libyan representative to the ICC, Ahmed al-Jehani, said on Saturday. Al-Jehani denied that Taylor was in prison saying she was "under house arrest in Zintan."

A militia commander from Zintan also confirmed late on Saturday the allegations that spying tools were found on the ICC staff.

"The revolutionaries found, after searching the court team, letters given to them by Saif al-Islam to deliver to one of his aides. Spying devices were also seized," said Ajmi al-Uteiri, a Zintan-based militia leader, according to the news broadcasting organization Al Jazeera.

"During the team's visit, secret documents were exchanged, including a blank piece of paper signed by Saif al-Islam addressed to the court claiming that there is no government or law in Libya and that he is ill-treated," he said.

The ICC and Libyan government have been at loggerheads over the fate of Saif al-Islam since the ICC issued a warrant for him last year over allegations concerning his role in the massacre of protesters during the rebellion that eventually led to his father's ousting and eventual death after ruling for 42 years. But the Libyan government has so far opposed the move, insisting that the former ruler's son should be tried on Libyan soil. In May, it filed a legal challenge against the ICC over the row.

Bloodshed in the southeast

Meanwhile, 13 people were killed on Sunday in a second day of deadly clashes between the Libyan military and tribesmen in the restive southeastern region, said a security official. Violence reignited in the troubled city of Al Kufra in the early hours on Saturday, which is close to the border with Chad and Sudan and where the military has been trying to put a stop to feuds between the rival Tibu and Zwai tribes.

Libyan authorities are struggling to clamp down on continuing bloodshed in the country's violent hotspots, with rivalries and divisions proving fatal in a country awash with weapons. The southeast in particular has historically played host to repeated bloody clashes between rival tribes.

sej/mz (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)