Libya liberation comes amid controversy over ‘cruel’ Gathafi killing
Libya's new leaders will on Sunday declare liberation in the wake of Moamer Gathafi's death, paving the way for the formation of an interim government followed by the first free vote in 42 years.
The long-awaited declaration was being overshadowed, however, by raging controversy over the circumstances of Gathafi's killing after he was captured alive during the fall of his hometown Sirte, with Britain on Sunday saying the incident had "stained" the National Transitional Council.
Senior NTC officials said an autopsy has been carried out on Gathafi's body, which would be handed to his relatives after consulting with them on the location of his burial.
The new regime has said the liberation declaration would be made later Sunday in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that broke out in February and, backed later by a NATO air war, saw Tripoli overrun in August.
The NTC had promised to proclaim the country's liberation after Sirte, Gathafi's last bastion of support, fell and the ousted despot was controversially killed on Thursday.
Under the NTC's roadmap, an interim government would be formed within one month of the declaration, followed within eight months by elections for a constitutional assembly -- the first democratic vote in Libya since Gathafi seized power in a coup 42 years ago.
Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held within a year after that.
Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said an investigation was being conducted into the circumstances of Gathafi's killing after several foreign governments and human rights watchdogs posed questions.
"We are dealing with the subject with transparency," Abdel Jalil told Al-Jazeera television.
Disquiet has grown internationally over how Gathafi met his end after NTC fighters hauled him out of a culvert where he was hiding following NATO air strikes on the convoy in which he had been trying to flee his falling hometown.
Mobile phone videos show him still alive at that point.
Subsequent footage shows a now-bloodied but walking Gathafi being hustled through a frenzied crowd, before he disappears in the crush and the crackle of gunfire can be heard.
NTC leaders are adamant he was shot in the head when he was caught "in crossfire" between his supporters and new regime fighters soon after his capture.
Interim Prime Minister Mahmud Jibril told the BBC's Hardtalk programme that he would rather Gathafi had survived.
"To be honest with you at the personal level I wish he was alive. I want to know why he did this to the Libyan people," he said. "I wish I were his prosecutor in his trial."
Jibril added it would be "absolutely OK" to carry out a full investigation under international supervision into the killing, as long as Islamic burial rules were respected.
In London, Britain's new Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the reputation of Libya's new leaders had been "stained" by Gathafi's killing.
"It's certainly not the way we do things, it's not the way we would have liked it to have happened," he told BBC television.
"The fledgling Libyan government will understand that its reputation in the international community is a little bit stained by what happened," he said.
Gathafi's body has been stored in a vegetable market freezer in the eastern city of Misrata, drawing large crowds wanting to view and take pictures of the remains of the despot who ruled Libya with an iron fist for decades.
An autopsy was carried out on Sunday morning, Misrata military council spokesman Fathi al-Bashaagha said.
The judge in charge of organising the autopsy confirmed that Gathafi's body had been examined, adding he was waiting for a report on the causes of death.
"The autopsy was completed at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) but the report has not been written yet so I haven't been informed yet of the causes of death," said Abdel Salam Baayu.
Another NTC official, Ahmed Jibril, said that his body would be handed to his relatives.
"The decision has been taken to hand him over to his extended family, because none of his immediate family are present at this moment," Jibril said in Tripoli.
"The NTC are in consultation with his family. It is for his family to decide where Gathafi will be buried, in consultation with the NTC," added Jibril.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay called for an investigation into the killing, as did Claudio Cordone, senior director at Amnesty International, who said that if he "was killed after his capture, it would constitute a war crime and those responsible should be brought to justice."
And Gathafi's widow, Safia, who fled to Algeria in August, has called on the United Nations to investigate the circumstances of her husband's death, Syria-based Arrai television said.
Libya's wanted former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, meanwhile, has surfaced in neighbouring Niger, a government source in the capital Niamey said.
Senussi is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of "crimes against humanity." The court leveled the same charges against Gathafi and his son and longtime heir apparent Seif al-Islam.
Seif al-Islam too remains at large. NTC officials said he too may have fled to Niger.