The attack prevented Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from filing an appeal against his disqualification from next month’s presidential election.
Gunmen have stormed a Libyan court ahead of an appeal by the son of slain former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with the United Nations warning that his presidential candidacy has been rejected.
The Libyan government on Friday called the perpetrators a “group of criminals” who carried out a “disgusting” attack that led to the closure of a court in the southern city of Sebha.
A lawyer for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said armed men prevented him from filing an appeal on Thursday against his client’s disqualification from next month’s presidential election, raising fears of turmoil around the vote.
Khalid al-Zaidi said in a video that armed men simply raided the Sebha court, one of three registration centers, and barred him from entering to file his client’s appeal against disqualification.
Libya’s election commission on Wednesday announced it would reject the candidacy submitted by Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
She was one of 25 candidates disqualified by the commission to run in the December 24 vote, which is part of an internationally-backed peace process aimed at ending a decade of chaos.
The unsuccessful applicants were given 48 hours to appeal against the decision.
Al-Zaidi said the attackers forced all staff in the court building “at gunpoint” hours before the appeal hearing.
“This act is an obstacle in the electoral process,” he said in a video broadcast on Libyan media.
He said the interior and justice ministries have ordered an investigation into the attack.
The UN aid mission in Libya said on Friday it was concerned by the alleged attack on the appeals court in Sebha, strongly condemned any form of election-related violence, and reiterated that the electoral process must be protected.
The Mission reiterates its call to conduct transparent, fair and inclusive elections on 24th December.
Controversies about issues including candidates’ qualifications are threatening to derail the election, as last year saw the formation of an interim government as part of a UN-backed peace process.
The final list of candidates is scheduled to be published in early December, once the verification and appeal is complete.
The commission rejected Gaddafi’s candidacy on the basis of electoral law, which stated that candidates “should not be punished for an abusive crime” and must present a clean criminal record.
Sebha is controlled by a group affiliated with the eastern-based Libyan National Army, led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, one of the main candidates in the election.
Haftar, a former CIA asset, is said to have United States nationality, which may even exclude him. Many in western Libya also accuse him of war crimes committed during their 2019-20 attack on Tripoli.
Haftar denied war crimes and said he was not a US citizen.
Interim Prime Minister Hamid Dabiba has called election rules “flawed” issued in September by the speaker of the eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, who is also a candidate.
In recent years, Saleh has attracted the ire of many for supporting Haftar’s failed attack on the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli last year.