>Seif al-Islam detained in desert
>Christians remain on edge amid reported opposition
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with BosNewsLife African Service
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BosNewsLife)– Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s fugitive son Seif al-Islam was captured in the south of the country, officials said Saturday, November 19, but it remained unclear whether minority Christians would feel safer in the still troubled nation.
Seif al-Islam, Gadhafi’s one-time successor who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, was “arrested in southern Libya,” in the desert said justice minister Mohammed al-Allagui and commanders of the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) government in published remarks.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands,issued warrants on June 27 against Seif al-Islam, his father and Abdullah al-Senussi, the late leader’s intelligence chief, on charges of crimes against humanity in crushing anti-regime protests.
Seif’s reported arrest came nearly a month after Gadhafi, who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years, was himself killed on October 20 when forces of Libya’s new government stormed his home town of Sirte.
Minority Christians, including former Muslims, have been closely watching the situation in the African nation amid uncertainty whether they will receive more rights to practice their faith, observers said.
“For now, the small minority of local Libyan Christians will continue to keep a low profile” said Open Doors, an internationally recognized group supporting Christians facing reported persecution.
“Gadhafi led a tight security system that monitored his people, whether they were Muslims or Christians. Foreign Christians were allowed to express their faith publicly, but converts from a Muslim background kept a low profile for fear of being expelled from their family or being forced to return to Islam,” the group
said before the latest detention was known.
Heavily Islamic Libya currently ranks number 25 on the annual Open Doors’ World Watch List of 50 nations known for their reported persecution of Christians.
The president and chief executive officer of Open Doors USA, Carl Moeller, cautioned it “is not very likely that the situation for the Christians will quickly change.” He said the “new government will likely be an Islamic government and for now Christians will continue in the same way that they were used to.”
His group has urged its supporters in statement to “pray” for Libya’s minority Christians, comprising about 2.5 percent of the North African country’s mainly Sunni Muslim population of roughly 6.6 million people.
Moeller added there is concern about the NTC’s announcement that Islamic Sharia, or Muslim law, “would be the main source of legislation Libya will certainly not experience a democracy like many countries” in the West.
“Without total freedom of religion, a democracy cannot function. It is vital that we continue to pray for these Christians and the future of the country.”
There are also worries about black African Christians who have often been confused by rebels with Gadhafi mercenaries, said the Open Doors chief.
“Especially in the first months of the revolution, it was a dangerous situation for them. Gadhafi had hired mercenaries from sub-Saharan countries. When the revolution started, black Africans became targets for revenge attacks, because the attackers thought they might be mercenaries.”
He added that “This situation is believed to have improved now, especially since the fall of the regime.”
Additionally, “At some point there was an absolute need for humanitarian aid, but also requests for Christian literature and Bibles. Open Doors was able to provide both, with the help of several partners during a window of opportunity when the borders were relatively open.”
With the once powerful Seif al-Islam now being detained, new opportunities for Christian aid were expected.
OFFICIALS EXPECTED DETENTION
His arrest did not came as a surprise for officials.
The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo predicted on November 9 that Seif’s arrest was just a matter of time. “The question is not if he will be arrested, it’s when,” he told reporters at the court’s headquarters in The Hague. “It’s a matter of time, Seif will face justice, that’s his destiny.”
A week earlier, the prosecutor told the UN Security Council that the ICC had “received questions from individuals linked to Seif al-Islam about the legal conditions attaching to his potential surrender.”
Seif’s representatives had asked what would happen to him if he appeared before judges and the various conviction and acquittal possibilities, the prosecutor told the Security Council which referred the Libya case to the ICC, French News Agency (AFP) reported.