TRIPOLI, LIBYA — Moammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi, his special forces commander who fled Libya during its 2011 revolution, was imprisoned in Tripoli on Thursday after Niger sent him back from house arrest there.
Saadi, who had a brief career as a soccer player in Italy and lived a playboy lifestyle during his father’s rule, is the first of Gaddafi’s sons the central government has managed to arrest since the former ruler was overthrown.
Gaddafi’s more prominent son, Saif al-Islam, long viewed as his heir, has been held captive by fighters in western Libya who refuse to hand him over to a government they deem too weak to put him on trial.
Eager to close another chapter from Gaddafi’s four-decade rule, Tripoli had long sought the extradition of Saadi, who had fled to Libya’s southern neighbor by slipping over the sub-Saharan border after the uprising.
“The Libyan government received today Saadi Gaddafi and he arrived in Tripoli,” Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s cabinet said in a statement that thanked Niger’s government for its help.
The extradition is a success for Zeidan but also a test of whether his weak government is able to hold such a high-profile prisoner and organize a fair trial in the political chaos that has followed the uprising.
The government said Saadi, 40, would be treated according to international law.
Since escaping Libya in 2011, he had been held under house arrest in the Nigerian capital, Niamey. Libyan authorities believe he was active from there in fomenting unrest in southern Libya.
Within an hour of the news of his arrival, a militia on the Libyan state payroll published photos of an uncomfortable-looking Saadi in a blue prison jumpsuit, kneeling while a guard shaved his beard and head with an electric razor.
“The first pictures of the criminal,” the Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room militia said on its Web site, showing pictures of Saadi before and after being shaved.
State prosecutors are investigating Saadi for crimes in suppressing the eight-month uprising against his father, the state news agency LANA said.
Tripoli also wants to try him for allegedly misappropriating property by force and for alleged armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.