Court says son of Muammar Gaddafi can contest presidential election in Libya

A Libyan court overturned a decision by the country’s top electoral body that disqualified the son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from running in upcoming presidential elections.

court in the southern province of Sabha ruled in Seif al-Islam Gaddafi’s favour, Libyan media outlets reported.

For almost a week prior, the court had failed to convene to decide on the appeal after the building was surrounded by armed men who preventing judges from entering.

Seif al-Islam, once the heir-apparent to his father, appealed against the decision last week by Libya’s High National Elections Committee that barred him because of past convictions against him for using violence against protesters.

The first round of voting is meant to start on December 24, though a number of divisive issues need to be resolved before then.

It remains unclear whether any further legal challenges could be made to Seif al-Islam’s candidacy.

The elections come after years of UN-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and end the country’s civil war.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a Nato-backed uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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Then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi meeting Gordon Brown (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The oil-rich nation had for years been split between a government in the east, backed by powerful commander Khalifa Hifter, and a UN-supported administration in Tripoli, aided by western-based Libyan militias.

Each side has also had the support of mercenaries and foreign forces from Turkey, Russia and Syria and different regional powers.

Seif al-Islam had been sentenced to death by a Tripoli court in 2015 for using violence against protesters in the 2011 uprising against his father, though that ruling has since been called into question by Libya’s rival authorities.

He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity related to the uprising.

The upcoming vote faces many challenges, including unresolved issues over laws governing the elections and occasional infighting among armed groups.

Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.

The oil-rich North African county is currently governed by an interim government that was elected by Libyan delegates after UN-led talks in Geneva in February.

Several other high-profile presidential hopefuls have filed their candidacy documents, including Mr Hifter, and the country’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

In recent days, local courts have been looking into several appeals against candidates.

Also on Thursday, the country’s high election commission said that armed men had attacked four different polling stations in Azizia town and one in the capital, Tripoli.

The commission said they stole or destroyed over 2,000 voting cards, that eligible voters are expected to carry on the election day.

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