A son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who disappeared six years ago and believed to be dead, has reappeared and has announced his intention to return to politics.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, still wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, said he intended to unify Libya at the head of his father’s “green movement”.
In his first public remarks since being sentenced to death by a Libyan court in 2015, the 49-year-old claimed he would enjoy broad support from the Libyan public tired of the factions fighting for control of the country from his father. was knocked down.
“It’s not in their best interests to have a strong government,” he told The New York Times. “This is why they are afraid of the elections.
“They are against the idea of a president. They are against the idea of a state, of a government whose legitimacy comes from the people.
He has not clarified his own political ambitions and has avoided the question of whether he plans to run in the presidential elections scheduled for December.
“I have been away from the Libyan people for 10 years,” he said. “You have to come back slowly, slowly. Like a striptease, ”he told the newspaper. “You have to play with their minds a bit. “
He also defended his father’s record in power and refused to apologize for the atrocities committed by his regime, saying most Libyans now believe the government should have taken an even tougher line.
“What happened in Libya was not a revolution,” he said. “You can call it a civil war, or days of evil. It is not a revolution.
The second son of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam was educated at the University of Tripoli and studied for an MBA in Vienna and a doctorate at the London School of Economics.
He was considered a figure of modernization during his father’s reign and has been credited by some for presiding over a brief period of liberalization and reform in the later years of the regime.
That reputation was tarnished when he backed the government crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011, warning of “rivers of blood” if the revolution were not avoided.
He was captured in southern Libya after his father’s regime collapsed later that year, and held prisoner by a group of militias in the town of Zintan.
The Zintani refused to hand him over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which indicted him for war crimes allegedly committed during the war in 2011.
They allowed him to be tried by video link in a court in Tripoli, but refused to hand him over to the authorities in that country when he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
It was later reported that he was released, but he never appeared in public and there have been rumors since he died or that he was planning a political comeback.
In 2018, the Libyan Popular Front party claimed it would run for president as a candidate in that year’s election, but promises of a public appearance came to nothing.
In 2020, Bloomberg reported the arrest in Libya of two Russians allegedly involved in a plot to install Mr. Gaddafi as pro-Moscow president.
He would have stiff competition if he ran for the presidency. Rivals for national leadership include Khalifa Haftar, the general who controls much of eastern Libya and is supported by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, and Fathi Bashagha, a former interior minister in the city. of Misrata, which is favored by Turkey and many Western governments.
A ceasefire signed last October largely froze the long civil war in Libya, but the country remains torn by a bitter east-west divide and is teeming with foreign troops and mercenaries from Turkey, Russia, the Middle -East and Africa.
The factions agreed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in December, but diplomats say privately that the chances of those polls happening are slim.
Peter Millett, former British Ambassador to Libya, said: “It is interesting to confirm that he is really alive, but I think the analysis that Libyans would welcome Gaddafi’s return is overstated.