In one of the unfinished bits of business of the Arab Spring, Libya is seeking the extradition of Saadi, who fled here in September after rebels seized the Libyan capital, to face trial on war-crimes charges. The soccer-playing, flamboyant third son of the late Libyan leader was the commander of the country’s special forces during the civil war; Interpol has issued a “red notice” asking member countries to arrest Saadi if they find him on their soil, paving the way for extradition.
In interviews, Nigerien and American officials said the 39-year-old is under house arrest in a state guesthouse in Niamey. But that “guesthouse” is a luxurious, high-walled mansion in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, near the U.S. and French embassies. Since his arrival here, Saadi has led a normal life, eating at restaurants and dancing at nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning, according to restaurant and nightclub owners and local journalists.
Over the past three months, though, Niger’s government has ordered him to keep a low profile and stay inside his mansion, after comments he made to al-Arabiya television that he was in contact with Gaddafi loyalists and wanted to retake power in Libya.
At the same time, the Nigerien government has refused to extradite him, saying that he would never receive a fair trial, raising tensions with Libya’s new rulers. “We won’t accept this demand,” said Morou Amadou, Niger’s justice minister. “We won’t extradite someone where he is certain to face the death penalty.”
Unlike his elder brother Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Saadi is not wanted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. In addition to the Interpol warrant, he is the subject of U.N. sanctions for commanding military units that targeted protesters during Libya’s revolution. He has been barred from traveling to other countries.
Saif, who was caught in southern Libya, is being held by Libyan authorities to face trial.
A key destination for exiles
Niger owes a lot to Moammar Gaddafi, and he remains deeply popular here. As he did with other African nations, Gaddafi directed tens of millions of dollars in investment and aid toward Niger. He constructed mosques, including Niamey’s main one, and roads, as well as the building where Niger’s national assembly meets.
Gaddafi also allowed more than 100,000 Nigeriens to work in Libya; their remittances are vital for several million people back in Niger, one of the least-
developed nations in the world.
After rebels overran Tripoli in August, Niger was a key destination for Gaddafi loyalists. The next month, a large convoy of Libyan armored vehicles, carrying military and government officials — as well as gold bullion, purportedly — crossed from Libya’s southern desert into Niger. The Niamey government has acknowledged receiving 32 Gaddafi loyalists, including relatives and military generals, on “humanitarian grounds.”