The son of Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi has been OK-ed to run for president, even though he was convicted and sentenced to death for war crimes

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is seen on TV being questioned by judges in a trial broadcast live in 2014.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is questioned by judges in a trial broadcast live in 2014.

  • The son and heir-apparent of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been approved to run for president.
  • Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was previously disqualified over having been convicted of war crimes, but appealed the decision.
  • He is still wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

A court in Libya has ruled that the son and once heir-apparent of the late despot Muammar Gaddafi can run for president, Reuters reported, adding to the turmoil surrounding an election that Western nations hope will stabilize the fractured country.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second son of Gaddafi Sr., reemerged last month after a decade of silence to announce his candidacy for Libya’s first-ever election.

But he was disqualified on November 24 on grounds of him having being convicted in absentia and receiving the death sentence in 2015 by a court in Tripoli over war crimes he was accused of committing during his fight against revolutionary groups in 2011. At the time of the conviction, he was being held by rebel group who eventually released him in 2017.

He has denied all wrongdoing.

On Thursday, he successfully appealed the disqualification, his lawyer said, per Reuters.

Gaddafi, who acted as Libya’s de facto prime minister during his father’s reign, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. 

His father ruled Libya for 42 years until 2011, when Gaddafi Sr. was overthrown in a bloody civil war that culminated in the brutal beating of the dictator and his subsequent death at the hands of rebel fighters.

Following his release in 2017, Gaddafi removed himself from the public eye, saying in a New York Times magazine interview in June that he was making a gradual reentry into politics, comparing his comeback to a “striptease.”

Libya has for years been ripped apart by fighting between warring factions, an internationally-backed interim government, and ISIS, following a failed NATO attempt to transition the country to democracy.

Experts say Gaddafi can snap up support from Libyans who yearn for the stability of his father’s regime before the 2011 civil war, according to The Financial Times.

Some tribes and regions that Gaddafi’s father once favored are likely to throw in their support for him as well, FT reported.

But many Libyans, especially those who fought in the revolution against Gaddafi’s family, are outraged that he’s even allowed to run in the election, which is on December 24, Reuters reported.

Emad al-Sayah, chairman of the High National Election Commission, told The Washington Post the upcoming election would be key to determining whether Libyans will finally see peace. The country will “either continue on the track of democracy and peaceful devolution of power or go to square zero, where war will take place,” he said.

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