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Gaddafi son Saif says he is innocent of war crimes

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam claims he is innocent of crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said Saturday after indirect contacts with him.

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REUTERS - Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the fugitive son of Libya's toppled late leader, told the International Criminal Court he is innocent of alleged crimes against humanity, the court prosecutor said on Saturday in the Chinese capital.

The court, based in The Hague, has said it made informal contact with Saif al-Islam, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and is seeking to arrest him and bring him to trial on the charges stemming from Libya's civil war.

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters the contacts were through intermediaries, and Saif al-Islam maintained he is innocent and wants to understand what could happen to him if cleared of charges.

"There are some people connected with him that are in touch with people connected with us, so we have no direct relation; it's through intermediaries," Moreno-Ocampo said in a brief interview after arriving in Beijing, where he is attending a law conference.

"But we trust very much the person who is in touch for our side. He says he is innocent, he will prove he is innocent, and then he is interested in the consequence after that."

The ICC charged Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libya's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi with crimes against humanity for the bombing and shooting of civilian protesters in February.

Saif al-Islam fled Libya after forces loyal to Libya's new rulers captured and apparently killed his father outside his hometown of Sirte. Saif al-Islam is believed to have escaped across Libya's southern border into Niger.

A senior military official of Libya's National Transitional Council, told Reuters this week that Saif al-Islam and Senussi wanted to surrender to the ICC in The Hague because they felt unsafe in Libya, Algeria or Niger.

Under a deal, Saif al-Islam would be taken to The Hague where the ICC shares a detention unit with the U.N. Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is trying the former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

But Saif al-Islam was also concerned about what would happen even if he were found innocent, said Moreno-Ocampo.

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"He said he is innocent and he will prove to the judges he is innocent, and then he is more concerned about what will happen after, if he is considered innocent by the court," said Moreno-Ocampo.

"So we explain to him the legal system, so we are making no deal, though we have a case against him," he added. "But we are explaining the legal system and his right to defend himself."

The prosecutor confirmed that the court was worried that Saif al-Islam could escape its reach by fleeing to another country through mercenaries. Intelligence reports suggested that the mercenaries could include South Africans, he said.

"We have some information that there is a mercenary group trying to help him to move to a different country, so we are trying to prevent this activity," said Moreno-Ocampo, adding that "we are also working with some states to see if we can disrupt this attempt."

He did not give details of those efforts.

"We know he has explored different options, and then for us we would like to help him surrender," he said of Saif al-Islam.
 

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