TUNISIA – Nearly seven years after the bloody NATO-backed uprising overthrew Colonel Gaddafi, his son, Saif Al-Islam is reportedly seeking to run in the Libyan presidential elections this year to “rescue” his country from the turmoil.
The second son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity, is seeking to run in the country’s presidential election, which is set to be held sometime before the end of this year. The 45-year-old, currently hiding in Tunisia, launched his presidential campaign as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Libya (PFLL) on Monday.
“Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has decided to run in the upcoming presidential elections and does not aspire to power in its traditional sense,” PFLL spokesman Ayman Abu Ras announced during a press conference in Tunis.
Gaddafi’s candidacy will be officially registered at the opening of registration lists in the elections, the spokesman said, noting that the self-exiled man plans to “save Libya” and “establish peace and stability” in the war-torn country. He added that Gaddafi’s reform program includes a comprehensive political, security and social vision for the future of a “modern and open” Libya.
The spokesman vowed that Gaddafi Jr. will directly address Libyans in the coming days to announce his electoral plans and his vision of rebuilding the state. In the meantime, the lawyer representing Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi confirmed that his client will register his candidacy when the registration process officially opens.
“The Libyan people have the right to choose,” Khalid al-Ghuwail said.
Libya descended into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, with multiple governments competing for control of the oil-rich country. Currently, the north African country is divided between the Tobruk-based parliament and the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The power vacuum in the country, which emerged after the disastrous NATO-led military intervention in 2011, has also been exploited by militants and terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) offshoots.
Gaddafi now “proposes the restoration of the national state with full sovereignty,” Abu Ras said, noting that the PFLL platform advocates the “elimination of terrorism in all its forms.”
Despite Abu Ras’ announcement, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has not appeared in public since his release from prison in the southern city of Zintan in June 2017, where he had been detained by a local militia following his capture in 2011. In July 2015, Gaddafi Jr. was sentenced to death by Tripoli in absentia for war crimes. However, Zintan authorities refused to implement his sentence, ultimately releasing their prisoner after six years of captivity. While the Tobruk-based government granted Gaddafi Jr. full amnesty in June 2017, the 45-year-old still has a standing ICC arrest warrant over crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 2011 Arab Spring protests. The whereabouts of Gaddafi’s son have been uncertain since he was released by militiamen. He is presumably taking refuge in neighboring Tunisia.