TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the only son of the former dictator in custody in the country, will join 37 former regime members in a pre-trial session in Tripoli over charges of murder and crimes allegedly committed during 2011 civil war, Libya's top prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor General Abdel-Qader Radwan told reporters that Moammar Gadhafi's son will be facing an "indictment chamber" Thursday at Tripoli Criminal Court along with former spy chief Abdullah al-Senoussi and other defendants. He said that the hearing will not be open to public.

"This is an investigation phase — not a court session," he said. Radwan declined to say whether Gadhafi will remain in Tripoli or return to a prison in Zintan where he's been held.

While the session will not mark the beginning of the trial, it will pose a crucial test for the country's fragile government.

Since the ouster and killing of Moammar Gadhafi at the hands of rebel forces, successive interim governments have failed to impose law and order. They instead relied on heavily armed militia groups, formed initially by the rebel forces, which later began challenging the central government and threatening the country's transition to democracy.

Gadhafi's son has been held by a militia group that captured him in the western mountain town of Zintan as he was fleeing to neighboring Niger after rebel forces took Libya's capital.

On the eve of the pretrial hearing, Amnesty International urged authorities to "immediately hand" Gadhafi's son and al-Senoussi to the International Criminal Court where they are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity. Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahrahoui said that a trial in Libya "today will not serve justice."

The ICC charged Seif al-Islam Gadhafi with murder and persecution of civilians during the early days of the uprising. If convicted in that court, he would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, because it does not have the death penalty. This summer, the international court judges had ruled that Libya cannot give Gadhafi's son a fair trial and asked authorities to hand him over to The Hague.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is also being tried on separate charges of harming state security, attempting to escape prison and insulting Libya's new flag. The charges are linked to a 2012 meeting with an international court delegation accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him in his cell. Zintan rebels held the four-member team but released them after the court apologized and pledged to investigate the incident.

 

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