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Dublin: 11°C Monday 23 November 2020

International Criminal Court staff released by Libyan authorities

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her three colleagues were detained in Libya since 7 June.

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor,left, holding a white bag disembarks at Rome's Ciampino military airport.
Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor,left, holding a white bag disembarks at Rome's Ciampino military airport.
Image: Riccardo De Luca/AP/Press Association Images

AN AUSTRALIAN LAWYER and her Lebanese-born interpreter, along with their two male colleagues from the International Criminal Court, have been released by Libyan authorities after almost a month of detention.

The four ICC staff members were detained in Zintan in Libya since 7 June, accused of smuggling documents to Saif al-Islam, the son of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Melinda Taylor, Helene Assaf, Alexander Khodakov and Esteban Peralta Losilla all boarded an Italian plane at Tripoli last night and travelled to The Hague.

Taylor and Assaf had both been formally held since 7 June, while Khodakov and Losilla remained with them out of solidarity.

All four said they were treated well during their detention in Zintan and are in “good spirits and good health”. The President of the ICC Judge Sang-Hyun Song travelled to Libya to ensure the release of his staff members.

“I am very happy to bring them all back to the freedom.” He also expressed its gratitude to the Italian government for facilitating last night’s travel plans.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who has called for the lawyers’ release for the past month, welcomed the release this morning.

“This is the news we have been hoping for – a swift end to Melinda Taylor’s detention and the resolution of what has been a protracted diplomatic negotiation,” he said before thanking the Libyan authorities, particularly Prime Minister el-Keib and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz “whose personal intervention was instrumental in bringing this matter to a close”.

According to ABC News in Australia, Taylor will be reunited with her husband and two-year-old daughter at their home in The Hague today.

The ICC delegation were initially sent to Libya to help Saif al-Islam choose a defence lawyer as he faces war crimes charges. However, Libyan prosecutors claimed that Taylor may have carried a pen camera to him and attempted to pass on a coded letter from a former aide who is on the run.

BBC News reports that the four ICC staff members will still face a Tripoli court – either in person or in absentia – on 23 July for a final ruling in the inquiry.

The ICC has said it will carry out its own investigation into the claims of wrongdoing or misconduct by its staff.

There is an ongoing dispute between the ICC and Libya over the trial of Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam. Zintan militia have refused to hand him over to Tripoli but others have claimed that he will not see a fair trial in Libya. The Libyan government do not want him tried at the ICC.

Read: More calls for release of Australian lawyer and other ICC staff in Libya>

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