THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Libya said Tuesday it should be allowed to prosecute one of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi's sons for crimes against humanity, but his lawyers objected, insisting the late ruler's son cannot get a fair trial in a nation now run by those who toppled his father.
The diametrically opposed positions came at an International Criminal Court hearing that will go a long way to deciding whether Seif al-Islam Gadhafi will be put on trial in Tripoli or The Hague.
The legal tug-of-war over Seif al-Islam also is a key test for a founding principle of the war crimes tribunal: known as "complementarity," the principle states that the court can only try suspects from nations unable or unwilling to launch their own prosecutions.
ICC prosecutors charged Seif al-Islam last year with murder and persecution for his alleged involvement in the deadly crackdown on dissent against his father's four-decade rule.
But months later authorities in Libya arrested Seif al-Islam and said they want to prosecute him. Prosecutors in The Hague now say they are willing to hand the case to authorities in Tripoli.
While prosecutors and judges are both part of the court, they operate independently of one another and judges do not have to follow the prosecutors' advice.
Where Gadhafi's son ends up being tried is not only a matter of national importance to Libya's new rulers. It's also of huge consequence to Seif al-Islam himself: if he were to be tried and convicted in The Hague, he could face a maximum life sentence, but if a Libyan court were to find him guilty he could face the death penalty.
Libya remains in turmoil almost a year after Gadhafi's ouster and rival armed militias still pose a serious threat to security in the country. Seif al-Islam is being held by a militia in the town of Zintan.
Libyan lawyer Ahmed al-Jehani, who represented the Libyan government at the court, pledged that Tripoli would give him a fair trial.
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