Gadhafi's son briefly appears in Libyan court

ZINTAN, Libya (AP) — The son of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi briefly appeared before a militia-backed court in a western Libyan town on Thursday only to see the proceedings against him adjourned until the end of February.

Since the end of Libya's 2011 civil war, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi has been held by a militia in Zintan, which has refused to hand him over for a separate trial in the capital, Tripoli — a sign of the central government's weakness.

In Tripoli, he is being tried in absentia along with 39 other Gadhafi regime figures, including notorious spymaster Abdullah al-Senoussi, for alleged crimes during Libya's conflict. Seif al-Islam is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

The only Gadhfai son in custody, Seif al-Islam looked healthy during his brief appearance Thursday in the Zintan court. Wearing a blue prison uniform, he replied with a "no" when the judge asked him whether he had any requests.

The hearings were then adjourned until Feb. 27 because the judge demanded that "other suspects" be brought in. In the Zintan trial, Seif al-Islam faces charges of attempting to escape prison and insulting Libya's new flag. These charges are linked to a meeting he had in June 2012 with an ICC delegation that was accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him in his cell. The four-member team from The Hague was detained by Zintan rebels but released after the international tribunal apologized and pledged to investigate the incident.

The Zintan charges are separate from both those by the ICC, which indicted Seif al-Islam for the murder and persecution of protesters in the uprising that ultimately toppled his father's regime, and those by the Tripoli court.

Thursday's hearing was held amid tight security measures, with several masked policemen guarding Seif al-Islam inside the courtroom. The Zintan proceedings and the refusal of its militia to hand over Seif al-Islam underscore some of the many troubles plaguing Libya. Since Gadhafi's fall, the country has fallen hostage to heavily armed militias — which were once the backbone of the uprising — that continue to challenge the central government and threaten its transition to democratic rule.

With frequent attacks on public figures and security officials, much of the lawlessness is blamed on the groups. But the government also relies on many of them to provide security in the absence of a functioning police force.

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