Tunisian lawyer for Libyan ex-PM complains of harassment

AFP , Wednesday 16 Nov 2011

A lawyer in the defence team of the former Libyan prime minister detained in Tunisia faces complaint for obstructing duty of police officer, jeopardising his role in the case

The lawyer for former Libyan prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, detained in Tunisia pending extradition proceedings, said Wednesday he could be forced off the case after a clash with a police officer.

Mabrouk Kourchid told AFP that a police officer had filed a complaint against him for obstructing him in the exercise of his duties.

"I was pushed about and manhandled by a police officer when I wanted to approach my client as he was being taken to the courtroom," he said. He had protested and made a complaint to the relevant court officer, he added.

But if the police officer's counter-complaint was judged admissable and he was found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison, he said.

Kourchid said he feared that the case filed against him was a bid to force him off the team defending Mahmoudi.

The 70-year-old, prime minister until the final days of the regime of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was arrested on 21 September on Tunisia's southwestern border with Algeria and jailed for illegal entry.

He is being held in a prison near Tunis.

Lawyer Kourchid has helped mobilise the support of international rights groups over fears for Mahmudi's safety should he be extradited.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged Tunisia not to extradite Mahmoudi because of the risk he would be tortured or even killed.

Kourchid was also part of the legal team that applied for UN political refugee status for his client to try to prevent his extradition.

They argued that Mahmoudi feared for his life as the sole holder of Libyan state secrets since the death of Gaddafi.

The latest extradition request against Mahmoudi concerns charges of inciting rape in the town of Zuwarah in northwest Libya, says Kourchid.

A Tunisian appeals court last week approved Mahmoudi's extradition to Libya, though that ruling has been appealed.

Tunisia in August recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya's new authority and has committed itself to cooperation on security issues.

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