Libya's transitional council deputy chair criticizes Niger's amnesty offer to Saadi Gadhafi
He says Niger's position is a "challenge" to Libya, further describing it as "hostile"
Niger's president has said Saadi should be treated like other "Libyan refugees"
Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Saadi; his lawyer denies charges against him
A top Libyan official on Monday slammed Niger’s offer of amnesty to one of the late Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, calling it a “challenge and provocation.”
Last Friday, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou reaffirmed his country’s decision to grant asylum to Saadi Gadhafi, saying the son of Libya’s longtime ruler should be allowed to stay and be treated just like other “Libyan refugees.”
Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, deputy chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council, blasted that stance while addressing reporters Monday in Tripoli.
“It is unacceptable that Niger would turn into a country that harbors criminals wanted by international justice,” he said. “We call on Niger to reconsider its unjustified position.”
The rift is one of the new Libyan government’s first with other nations. The deputy chairman described Niger’s position as “hostile,” adding, “Such statements do not help build relations based on mutual respect.”
Saadi Gadhafi is in Niger, the landlocked West African nation bordering Libya.
Ghoga referred to him Monday as a “wanted criminal in Libya.” Interpol has issued an arrest warrant – known as a “red notice” – for Saadi Gadhafi, requesting his provisional arrest ahead of his extradition or surrender to an international court.
The warrant accuses him of “misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.”
His lawyer, Nick Kaufman, told CNN earlier this month that his client “strenuously denies the charges made against him.”
Kaufman said he’s asked the Interpol secretary general to revoke the warrant, claiming that it is politically motivated and was sought by a new Libyan leadership that lacks legitimacy.
Issoufou told reporters last week in South Africa that Niger’s position is not new, saying, “The attitude of the Niger government regarding this has already been noted: We have already welcomed Libyan refugees for humanitarian reasons” – of which Saadi is one such refugee.
One of Saadi’s brothers, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, remains in hiding.
He is also wanted by Interpol, as well as by the International Criminal Court. As a party to that court, Niger would be obligated to turn Saif al-Islam over should he be detained within its borders.
While Issoufou didn’t articulate a firm position on this son of Gadhafi, Ghoga said that Niger was “insinuating” that Saif al-Islam, like his brother, would also get asylum.
Three of the Gadhafi brothers were killed during the months-long conflict in their native Libya, along with their father. Their other siblings, meanwhile, escaped to Algeria.