Libya’s government has condemned an attack on a court ahead of an appeal by the son of slain dictator Moamer Gaddafi against the rejection of his presidential election candidacy.
The December 24 polls come as Libya seeks to turn a page on a decade of violence that has rocked the oil-rich nation since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya’s electoral commission on Wednesday announced the rejection of the candidacy of Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
Seif al-Islam was among 25 of the 98 hopefuls whose bids were turned down for non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral law.
The unsuccessful applicants were given 48 hours to appeal the decision in court.
But on Thursday morning a “group of outlaws” launched an “odious” attack on the court in the southern town of Sebha forcing it to shut — just hours before Seif al-Islam had been due to appeal, the government said in a statement.
It has ordered the interior and justice ministries to open an investigation into the attack, said Khaled al-Zaydi, the lawyer for Seif al-Islam.
The attackers forced all staff from the court building “at gunpoint” hours before the appeal hearing, said Khaled al-Zaydi, Seif al-Islam’s lawyer.
“This act is an obstacle to the electoral process,” he said in a video broadcast on Libyan media.
In the case of Seif al-Islam, the commission had pointed to articles of the electoral law stipulating that candidates “must not have been sentenced for a dishonourable crime” and must present a clean criminal record.
The final list of candidates is due to be published by early December, once verifications and appeals are completed.
Other hopefuls still in the running include eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah, and former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.
Both presidential and legislative polls had been slated for December 24, but in early October parliament split the dates of the votes, postponing the legislative elections until January.
The path to the ballot box has been lined with disputes over the constitutional basis for the polls and the powers to be given to whoever wins.