Libya said Wednesday Mauritania have agreed to hand over Muammar Qaddafi’s former spy chief for trial on home soil, turning down rival extradition requests from France and a war crimes court.
“We have obtained an agreement from Mauritania to deliver (Abdullah) Senussi to Libya where he will receive a fair trial. No date has been decided upon but it will be very soon,” government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said.
“We respect the judicial procedures in Mauritania which will take time to finish, but it is simply a question of time.”
But the delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour boarded a plane to leave Mauritania without Senussi after Mauritanian sources played down suggestions the deal was finalized and note that other countries had a say in the case.
"We have an assurance from Mauritania that it will extradite Abdullah al-Senussi but there are legal procedures which must be respected and we will wait," Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manee told reporters before boarding the plane.
Manaa was part of a Libyan delegation which arrived in Nouakchott on Monday to lobby for the handover of Qaddafi’s feared former right-hand man, arrested at the Mauritanian capital’s airport on Friday.
Mauritanian police said he had arrived on a flight from Casablanca in Morocco, travelling on a false passport.
A source close to the case said: “Nouakchott is not in a hurry, in this case all the norms and procedures must be respected. Mauritania will take its time.”
Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Tripoli Wednesday that a decision by Nouakchott to send Senussi back to Libya would lead to an enhancement of ties between the two countries.
“Any initiative in this regard would constitute in the future a basis of close links between the two brother nations,” Abdel Jalil said in a brief statement carried by Libya’s official news agency LANA.
Senussi was the subject of an ICC arrest warrant issued on June 27, which says he was an “indirect perpetrator of crimes against humanity, of murder and persecution based on political grounds” in the eastern city of Benghazi.
He is also the subject of an international arrest warrant after a Paris court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment for involvement in the downing of a French UTA airliner over Niger in September 1989.
The plane was carrying 170 people from Brazzaville to Paris via Ndjamena.
That attack − along with the bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 in which 270 people were killed − led to a UN-mandated air blockade of Libya in 1992.
A diplomat in Nouakchott said President Aziz had met ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and Spain on Monday who wanted to discuss the possibility of questioning Senussi over acts committed by the Qaddafi regime.
These include the attempted assassination in 2003 of then Saudi crown prince Abdullah, who is now king, and unspecified attacks in Madrid.
Interpol has issued a so-called “red notice” for Senussi on behalf of Libya “for fraud offences including embezzling public funds and misuse of power for personal benefit.”