Libya has put four International Criminal Court (ICC) envoys in “preventive” detention in prison for 45 days while investigating an alleged threat to national security, a judicial source said on Monday.
“A decision was made to put them in preventive detention for 45 days while investigations are conducted,” an official in the attorney general’s office told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Ajmi al-Atiri, head of the brigade in Zintan that detained the delegation after it visited Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, said: “They were transferred yesterday (Sunday) to a prison on the orders of the prosecutor general.”
The four-member delegation is being held in the western town after one of its lawyers, Melinda Taylor, was found carrying documents for Seif al-Islam that were considered a “threat to national security.”
Ahmed Jehani, Libya’s envoy to the ICC, has said that the Australian lawyer was caught “exchanging papers with the accused Seif al-Islam.”
Jehani alleged that Taylor was carrying a pen camera and a letter from Mohammed Ismail, Seif’s former right-hand man who is now on the run.
He said the letter contained drawings and symbols, a “code” that would be understood only by the sender and the intended recipient, Seif.
“According to Libyan law, it would be spying, communication with the enemy,” the envoy said.
Jehani said that Taylor’s interpreter Helene Assaf, a Lebanese who has been working with the ICC since 2005, was considered an “accomplice.”
The ICC has named the other members on the team as Russian Alexander Khodakov and Esteban Peralta Losilla from Spain.
According to Jehani, the two men had stayed behind out of their own accord.
Atiri gave no explanation as to why the men had been transferred from a house, where the team was initially held, to a formal detention facility.
On Monday, the interim government spokesman said he hoped that the ICC will cooperate with Libyan authorities in a “neutral investigation.”
“Relations between Libya and the ICC cannot be at the expense of Libya’s highest national interest... or the tolerance of security breaches and threats to national security,” the state news agency LANA quoted Nasser al-Manaa as saying.
“We expect the ICC to understand Libya’s position and cooperate in a neutral investigation,” he said, adding that further measures will be determined depending on the findings of the investigation.
The team was in Libya to help Seif choose a defense lawyer, and the court has said that the visit was authorized by Libya’s chief prosecutors. The ICC wants to try Seif, 39, for crimes against humanity in The Hague.
But the new regime in Libya wants to put Seif on trial in a local court, while ex-rebels in Zintan who are holding Qaddafi’s son are refusing to send him to Tripoli for fear that he might escape.
The ICC has previously expressed concern at the conditions under which he is being held. Human rights groups also question whether Libya's justice system can meet the standards of international law.
The Hague-based tribunal has called for the immediate release of its staff, noting that its envoys enjoy immunity when on mission.
A new ICC team arrived in Libya on Sunday to negotiate with the authorities
The ICC officials were also expected to go to Zintan on Tuesday to visit the four-member detained delegation.