Gadhafi Son: From Last 'Hope' to Alleged Crimes Against Humanity

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was seen by Libyan youth as "knight in shining armor."

ByLee Ferran
August 22, 2011, 12:11 PM

Aug. 22, 2011 — -- As Libyan rebels battle the remnants of pro-Gadhafi forces in Tripoli, the rebels announced they have managed to capture three of Gadhafi's sons, including the man most likely to have taken over the country after Moammar Gadhafi.

Representatives from the rebel's Transitional National Council are reportedly speaking today with officials from the International Criminal Court to discuss whether they'll hand over Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, Gadhaif's second-eldest son, for alleged crimes against humanity.

But before the alleged murders and before he defiantly warned protestors in February to go home before Libya runs red with "rivers of blood," Saif was seen by the Libyan youth in a completely different light: as the great "hope" for the north African nation.

"Young Libyans have repeated over the last few weeks that Saif al-Islam is the 'hope' of 'Libya al-Ghad' (Libya of tomorrow)," a U.S. official said in February 2010 in a classified State Department cable posted on the website WikiLeaks, "with men in their twenties saying that they aspire to be like Saif and think he is the right person to run the country."

In the years previous, Saif publicly spoke out against many of his father's own policies to urge Libya towards a more democratic future. In a 2008 address to the Libyan Youth Forum, he pushed for extreme reform, including establishing a new structure of government, a constitution and new legal system that provided greater protection for human rights and press freedoms.

As far back as 2002, Saif said democracy was "policy number one for us," according to a report by The Guardian.

"First thing democracy, second thing democracy, third thing democracy," he said.

"Saif seems to be making progress in casting himself as a humanitarian, philanthropist, and reformer," the 2010 U.S. cable says. "If Saif al-Islam does intend to accept an official role in the near future, domestic audiences -- particularly among Libya's swelling ranks of young adults -- may welcome him as Libya's knight in shining armor."

Saif, 29, had organized the Libyan Youth Forum as part of his duties as the chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, described on its website as an "international non-governmental organization" created to carry out "developmental and humanitarian activities in the social, economic, cultural and human rights fields."

According to the State Department, under Saif's direction the charity managed to broker a dialogue with a Libyan-based terror group that eventually led the group to denounce violence as a tool for jihad.

In 2009, Saif celebrated Easter with representatives of the Catholic Church as part of an effort to promote religious freedoms.

'Fight Until the Last Man, The Last Woman, The Last Bullet'

But Saif's reformist image in the West was quickly overwritten in February when he rushed to his father's side as protestors took to the streets.

"Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms, we will not be mourning 84 people, but thousands of deaths, and rivers of blood will run through Libya," Saif said on Libyan television. The regime, Saif said, would "fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet."

A month later, Saif told ABC News's Christiane Amanpour he still supported expanded democracy in his country as a tool to fight the "terrorists" and "thugs" who were leading the uprising -- echoing his father's claims.

But after the Libyan government was accused of ordering the attacks that led to the deaths of scores of civilians, the International Criminal Court set its sights on Saif, who it called the "de facto" prime minister of Libya.

"Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, although not having an official position, is Moammar Gadhafi's unspoken successor and the most influential person within his inner circle," the ICC said in the warrant for Saif's arrest issued in June.

The court inferred by his proximity to Moammar that Saif "conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell, by all means [including lethal action], the civilian demonstrations against Gadhafi's regime."

In addition to Saif al-Islam, his brothers Saadi and Mohammed Gadhafi have also reportedly been arrested, but officials are unsure where Gadhafi, as well as his other children, may be hiding. Mohammed Gadhafi later escaped custody when he was "hijacked" by pro-Gadhafi forces, TNC representative to the U.S. Ali Suleiman Aujali told ABC News.

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