TRIPOLI: A Libyan court adjourned Monday until April 27 the trial of top figures from Muammar Gaddafi's regime, including heir apparent Seif al-Islam, for abuses committed during the 2011 uprising that toppled the dictator.
The adjournment after some 40 minutes, was the second postponement since March 24, and came as a rights group voiced doubts over the possibility of a free trial.
As was the case in March, the postponement was due to a number of defendants, notably Seif, being absent and is meant to give lawyers time to prepare their cases.
In all, only 23 of 37 charged were in the dock, sitting behind bars in blue prison uniforms.
Among them were former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and Gaddafi's last premier, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi.
All the defendants are charged with murder, kidnapping, complicity in incitement to rape, plunder, sabotage, embezzlement of public funds and acts harmful to national unity.
Seif has been held in the western town of Zintan since he was arrested by rebels in November 2011. The central authorities in Tripoli have tried without success to negotiate his transfer to the capital.
While postponing the trial, the court did decide to allow Seif, and a number of other prisoners held in the eastern city of Misrata, to appear for trial hearings via video link. It judged that transferring them to Tripoli would pose a security risk.
Seif and Senussi are wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the uprising.
In May, the ICC rejected Tripoli's request to try him in Libya because of doubts over a fair trial. Tripoli has appealed the decision.
But the ICC last October gave Tripoli the go-ahead to try Senussi inside the country.
Saadi Gaddafi, another of the slain dictator's sons, was extradited from Niger in March, and is also due to go on trial. However, he has not yet been formally charged.
Human Rights Watch has called on authorities to grant the defendants full access to a lawyer, adequate time to prepare their defence and the ability to challenge evidence presented against them.
But Richard Dicker, HRW's international justice director, said in a statement Monday that "this case has been riddled with procedural flaws right from the beginning, which have made it grossly unfair to the defendants".
"Putting Gaddafi-era officials on trial without fair-trial guarantees shouldn't leave anyone satisfied that justice is being done," he added. -AFP