TUNIS, Tunisia – Libya's former prime minister will only be extradited to his country if his life isn't in danger there and he can be guaranteed a fair trial, Tunisia's presidential spokesman said Wednesday.
The statement to the state news agency tempers Tuesday's surprise announcement that former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's last prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, would be sent back to Libya to stand trial, despite the reservations of human rights organizations.
Al-Mahmoudi was arrested in September for illegally crossing the frontier into Tunisia as he tried to flee to Algeria, where members of Gadhafi's family had sought refuge.
"Tunisia will not extradite Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi ... unless Libya can provide guarantees of a fair trial," said presidential spokesman Adnan Mancer. "Tunisia will not send back Al-Mahmoudi if it believes there is a danger to his life."
Mancer said the accord agreed upon by the two countries to extradite Al-Mahmoudi will involve the creation of a Tunisian commission to verify the functioning of the Libyan justice system and the safety of the former prime minister — procedures that may take some time.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Tunisia's Justice Ministry said it would be a matter of weeks.
Al-Mahmoudi's lawyer, Bechir Essid , has denounced the decision as "unjust and against Tunisian law." He added that for the past few days, Al-Mahmoudi has been on a hunger strike after eight months of imprisonment.
Libya has been clamoring for the repatriation of Al-Mahmoudi to answer for crimes it says he committed during Gadhafi's regime.
Officials from the former regime have not fared well in the hands of the Libyan rebels, with Gadhafi and one of his sons being executed upon capture last year.
In January, 15 Tunisian and international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, signed a statement opposing Al-Mahmoudi's extradition, saying he risked death or torture if he was returned to Libya.