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Tunisia court drops charges against former PM of Libya

A Tunisian court on Tuesday dropped charges against former Libyan prime minister Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi [JURIST news archive] for illegally entering the country, but the former figurehead under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] remains in jail until a final decision on his extradition to Libya. The court dismissed the charges [Reuters report] after determining that al-Mahmoudi had lawfully crossed into Tunisia from Libya. Al-Mahmoudi's lawyer has indicated that he is attempting to have him released from custody while awaiting the extradition process. This decision comes following negotiations between the Tunisian interim government, led by President Moncef Marzouki [official website, in Arabic], and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] concerning the circumstances of extraditing al-Mahmoudi back to Libya. Marzouki has stated that the approval of the extradition would depend on adequate reassurances from Libya that al-Mahmoudi would be treated humanely if transferred to Libyan custody. The decision also comes despite several human rights groups arguing against the former prime minister's extradition.

In January, the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites], among other human rights groups, urged [JURIST report] Tunisia not to extradite al-Mahmoudi because he would be "at a real risk for torture" if returned to Libya. At the time, reports indicated that al-Mahmoudi feared for his safety and claimed to be the sole possessor of Libyan state secrets following Gaddafi's death in October [JURIST reports]. Some commentators have argued that former African leaders accused of human rights violations should be tried in their home countries [JURIST op-ed]. Tunisia ordered al-Mahmoudi's extradition in November, prompting a response from HRW [JURIST reports]. Al-Mamoudi was arrested in Tunisia in September 2011, and his extradition is one of many legal episodes within the ongoing effort by Libyan and international courts to investigate officials [JURIST reports] in the former Gaddafi regime.

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