CAIRO (AP) – The son and heir apparent to late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi on Sunday announced his candidacy for the country’s presidential election next month, the Libyan election agency said.
Seif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity related to the 2011 uprising, filed his candidacy documents in the southern city of Sabha, 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital Tripoli, The High National Electoral Commission said in a statement.
Gaddafi’s son was captured by fighters in the town of Zintan in late 2011, the year a NATO-backed popular uprising toppled his father after more than 40 years in power. Muammar Gaddafi was later killed amid the ensuing fighting which turned into a civil war.
In a video shared by an election official, Seif al-Islam addressed the camera, saying God will decide the right course for the country’s future. He wore a traditional Libyan dress, turban and glasses. It was the first time in years that Seif al-Islam had appeared in public.
Seif al-Islam, who was considered the reformist face of the Gaddafi regime before the 2011 uprising, was released in June 2017 after more than five years in detention. In July, he told the New York Times in an exclusive interview that he was considering a candidacy for the country’s top office. His candidacy is likely to spark controversy across the divided country.
Seif al-Islam is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the first weeks of the 2011 uprising.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah declined to comment on Seif al-Islam’s candidacy.
“The Court does not comment on political questions, because for the legal side, there is an arrest warrant pending and that has not changed,” he said.
Gaddafi’s son, who has deep-rooted ties to tribes across Libya, is the first major presidential hopeful to apply for the country’s top post. Powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, Speaker of Parliament Agila Saleh and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga are also widely expected to announce their offers.
The electoral agency began the process of registering presidential and parliamentary candidates last week. Potential candidates have until November 22 to register for the highest office in the country, while parliamentary candidates have until December 7 to apply.
Libya is due to hold presidential elections on December 24, after years of UN-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and end the country’s war. After the overthrow and murder of Gaddafi, oil-rich Libya has spent most of the last decade between rival governments – one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the east of the country.
The announcement came after an international conference in Paris on Friday expressed support for the holding of “free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections” on December 24.
The long-awaited vote still faces challenges, including unresolved issues regarding electoral laws and occasional internal struggles between armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the east and west of the country, divided for years by war, and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.
Dictator Gaddafi had eight children, most of whom played important roles in his regime. His son Muatassim was killed at the same time as Gaddafi was captured and killed. Two other sons, Seif al-Arab and Khamis, were killed earlier in the uprising. Another son, al-Saadi Gaddafi, was released in September after more than seven years of detention in the capital Tripoli following his extradition from neighboring Niger.
Associated Press editor Mike Corder contributed from The Hague, Netherlands.