Six years after Libyans toppled their 40-year ruler Muammar Gaddafi from power in a U.S.-backed revolution, the former leader’s son and heir apparent to his father’s regime, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, has announced his return to frontline politics.
Speaking in the Tunisian capital Tunis, Gaddafi’s lawyer Khaled al-Zaidi told reporters Gaddafi’s son was returning to Libya’s fractious political scene, adding he was in good health.
Related: Who Is Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, Once the Heir to His Father’s Regime and Now Free in Libya?
“He’s working on politics from his base in Libya, with the tribes, with the cities, with the decision makers,” Zaidi said according to Reuters. “He’s in a good health…in top condition. His medical and psychological condition are good.
“The aim is to achieve peace in Libya,” said Zaidi. “He follows Libyan affairs closely every day.”
British-educated Saif al-Islam , who had been one of the key architects of Libya’s rapprochement with U.S. and its allies in 2004, became one of the staunchest defenders of his father’s regime during the country’s 2011 revolution.
He said the widespread uprising was the work of “drunk and drugged” Islamists and was caught in footage encouraging armed supporters to fight protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
Following his capture at the tail end of the revolution that ended with his father’s summary execution, Saif al-Islam was held in the western Libyan mountain town of Zintan.
He was sentenced to death by the Libyan court via video link in 2015 for the role he played in the revolution but in the shifting allegiances of Libya’s civil war he was released under a law granting political amnesty to former Gaddafi officials later the same year.
Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, Gaddafi’s cousin and one of the most senior members of the former regime besides Saif al-Islam not either killed during the revolutionary war or imprisoned, tells Newsweek the former heir had recommitted himself to Libyan politics adding that he was in contact with his family member through intermediaries, though not directly.
Gaddaf al-Dam refused to say whether Saif al-Islam was likely to lead the country in the future but said he needed to be involved in the ongoing peace process. “Let’s get Libya out of all this mess. This is the priority after that the Libyans can choose whatever kind of leader they like. It’s too early right now to talk about who is leading,” he said.
Gaddaf al-Dam, who served as an aide to Muammar Gaddafi and as a foreign envoy, says Libyans had reconciled themselves with the former regime after six years of turbulence. He claimed the majority of those from the Gaddafi era now languishing in prisons were the country’s only experienced administrators.
“We have been in this situation now for nearly seven years. We can’t go on like this and we can’t leave it to these people who have destroyed the country and have left our people suffering. We watch our country burn every day,” he said.
Said al-Islam’s whereabouts remain unknown. Conflicting reports in recent years have claimed he is in Zintan, where he was captured, or in the eastern Libyan towns of Bayda or Tobruk. After his release was announced in June this year the International Criminal Court called for his arrest to face charges in the Netherlands.