Ex Libyan PM arrested, jailed in Tunisia
TUNIS - Tunisia said Thursday it had arrested and jailed Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, Libya's prime minister under fugitive ex-leader Moamer Gathafi.
Mahmudi, one of the most senior Gathafi aides to have been detained to date, was sentenced to six months in prison for illegal entry, a Tunisian justice ministry spokesman said.
Baghdadi was arrested on Wednesday and appeared before the state prosecutor in Tozeur (430 kilometres, 270 miles south of Tunis) when he was sentenced to six months in prison, "with immediate effect," Kadhem Zine el Abidine said.
Interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb said Mahmudi was arrested along with two other men on Wednesday near Tamaghza at the Algerian border, travelling in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Algeria has frosty relations with Libya's new rulers and gave refuge to Gathafi's wife and three of his children.
"They were arrested because they didn't have a Tunisian entry stamp," Meddeb said, adding that Mahmudi's arrest was not connected to his former role in the Gathafi regime.
"As far as we are concerned these are foreign citizens who entered Tunisia illegally," said Meddeb, who was not able to say if the men had arrived from Algeria or were in fact headed there.
Tunisia, ruled by an interim administration since the shock ouster of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January, officially recognised the NTC only on August 21 during the dying days of the Gathafi regime.
Libya's neighbour had previously observed a studied neutrality towards the warring sides, while taking in an estimated 700,000 refugees fleeing the conflict.
On September 7, another member of Gathafi's inner circle, Khouildi Hamidi, was briefly detained at Tunis airport for illegal entry. He had been about to board a flight bound for Casablanca, Morocco.
A Tunis court later dismissed the proceedings, which could have seen him jailed for up to a year, Hamidi's lawyer Abdelbasset Bouhouli said on Thursday.
He said prosecutors had 10 days during which they could lodge an appeal with a higher court.
Hamidi's passport has been returned and at this stage is not being prevented from travelling, the lawyer said.
Hamidi was part of the 1969 coup which saw Gathafi take power. Since the strongman's 42-year-old regime started collapsing under rebellion pressure, many senior officials in his entourage have defected or fled, often transiting through neighbouring Tunisia.
Visiting Tunis at the beginning of September, NTC number two Mahmoud Jibril discussed security with Tunisian interim leader Beji Caid Essebsi and underlined the need for cooperation between the two countries.
The NTC has said it wants to try former regime officials in Libya.