You may have thought these former world leaders — or, in one case, former world-leader-in-waiting — were dead. But they’re not, though all of them are either in ill-health or imprisoned.
1.) Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Moammar Gadhafi’s favorite son has been little heard of since his father was deposed and killed, but the man Western liberals used to fawn over for his supposedly democratic vision for his father’s dictatorship is very much alive and well. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t in exile in some lavish palace, but in the custody of a Libyan militia in Zintan.
Foreign Policy magazine recently traveled to Zintan to look into Saif whereabouts. While there, reporter Christian Caryl talked to local militia member Alajmi Ali Ahmed al-Atiri.
“I had come to Zintan to hear Atiri’s take on the issue that has placed his town in an unlikely international spotlight,” writes Caryl.
“Atiri still vividly remembers the day when he and his men made their mark on the history of their country. It was the fall of 2011, a month after the ignominious death of Moammar al-Gadhafi, and Atiri was commanding a Zintani militia unit patrolling a remote region along the country’s southern border with Niger. When his unit received a tip that a high-ranking member of the old regime was trying to escape across the border, Atiri set up a nighttime ambush on a smuggler’s road. Sure enough, his fighters soon surprised two cars that quickly became mired in the dunes. They captured the occupants, one of whom, Atiri noticed, was trying to hide his face.”
The man hiding his face turned out to be Saif, who, according to Atiri, demanded that the militia members kill him.
“Since his capture in that moonlit ambush in the Sahara, Saif has remained in the custody of the Zintanis, who are now holding him in a jail at an undisclosed location in the city,” Caryl writes. “The Zintanis have refused to hand him over to anyone else, including the central government in Tripoli — and it is their insistence on this point that has sparked their feud with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Hague-based international tribunal created in 2002 to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Zintanis claim that all they want is a fair trial for Saif, who recently turned 41 years old.
“Atiri says that the position of the Zintanis is simple: They want to see Saif get a fair trial, but they don’t think that can happen in Tripoli. They’re convinced that it’s possible in Zintan (though they don’t have much to say about the details of how it would take place),” Caryl writes.
So for now, Saif remains in prison, where the Zintanis claim he is being treated well.
“The Zintanis are quick to insist that they’re happy to provide access to Saif’s defense lawyers (or, at least, the public defenders appointed to his case in Tripoli),” Caryl continues. “They also say that they’re taking care to ensure humane living conditions for their illustrious prisoner — including TV, plenty of reading material, and air conditioning. They do note, however, that he is being held in isolation from other prisoners, though they refuse to elaborate on the details for security reasons. (The precise location or nature of his jail in Zintan remains a secret.)”