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Feb 28, 2013, 09.45 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Former Gaddafi PM "risks dying" after torture - lawyer

LIBYA-GADDAFI-PM:Former Gaddafi PM "risks dying" after torture - lawyer

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, a prime minister under deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, is in critical condition after being tortured in a Libyan jail, his Tunisian lawyer said on Wednesday.

An officer at the prison where Mahmoudi is held denied this.

Mahmoudi was extradited from Tunisia in June, making him the first senior Gaddafi official to be returned for trial under Libya's new leadership.

He went on trial in November charged with corruption and ordering mass rape during the 2011 conflict that toppled the Libyan leader and is being detained in a Tripoli prison.

"Mahmoudi risks dying. He has been tortured for the last 45 days, he is in critical condition," Mahmoudi's lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchid, based in Tunis, told Reuters.

"We are very worried about the state he is in, we will launch an international campaign to save his life."

Khorchid gave no further details. Mahmoudi's lawyer in Libya could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mahfoud al-Bidi, an officer in the prison where Mahmoudi is being detained, denied the ex-premier was in bad health.

"I saw him last night and he is well," Bidi told Reuters. "Do not believe what has been said. His Tunisian lawyer has not seen him since he left Tunis and he said he has no way of contacting him."

Mahmoudi served as Gaddafi's prime minister from 2006 until he fled to neighbouring Tunisia in August 2011 around the time rebel fighters took Tripoli. He could face life in jail or execution if convicted in his Tripoli trial.

Human rights groups have questioned whether former officials can get a fair trial in a country where bitterness over Gaddafi's rule runs deep and the militias that helped unseat him have influence.

But Libya's new leaders are determined to show that state institutions are up to the job of conducting such trials. (Reporting by Tarek Amara in Tunis and Ali Shuaib in Tripoli; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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