PARIS — Interpol placed another of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s sons on the equivalent of its most-wanted list on Thursday, placing pressure on the government of Niger to surrender a man accused of overseeing bloody repressions.
A Niger presidential spokesman has said al-Saadi Gadhafi is living under house arrest in the Western African country’s capital, Niamey, after fleeing Libya earlier this month via the desert bordering the two nations.
Interpol has already issued red notices for Moammar Gadhafi and his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi based on a request by the International Criminal Court. Both men have been charged with crimes against humanity.
The international police agency said in a statement it had issued a red notice for al-Saadi Gadhafi, based on a request by the Libya’s National Transitional Council — the first time Interpol has issued such a notice at the request of Libya’s post-Gadhafi leadership.
Interpol says the notice was based on accusations that the son, 38, misappropriated property and engaged in “armed intimidation” when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.
He was also a special forces commander and is the subject of U.N. sanctions for commanding military units involved in repression of demonstrations.
An Associated Press reporter attempted to approach the green-gated compound in Niamey earlier this month, only for the car to be stopped by plainclothed police. An officer said Gadhafi’s son and three of his generals were being held in the two-story stucco villas inside the compound.
The Interpol notice is expected to put the government of landlocked, aid-dependent Niger in a tight spot.
Niger’s Cabinet members were in their weekly closed-door session Thursday, their phones switched off, as Interpol made its announcement from its headquarters in Lyon, France.
Massoudou Hassoumi, the chief of staff of Niger’s president, told The Associated Press this month that his country would abide by all international obligations regarding members of Gadhafi’s regime. He said that they were ready to hand al-Saadi Gadhafi to the International Criminal Court if the court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Moussa Aksar, editor-in-chief of The Event newspaper published in Niamey, said the population of Niger is largely pro-Gadhafi because of road- and mosque-building projects the leader undertook. He said the government would face criticism internally if the son is handed over.
“The government has already gone on the record saying they will hand him over if there is a legal obligation to do so. So I think they can’t back down now. They are in a difficult spot,” Aksar said Thursday.
The international police agency had urged authorities in Niger and surrounding countries — and those with direct flights to Niger — to watch out for and arrest Gadhafi “with a view to returning him to Libya” for prosecution.
Interpol’s red notices are the highest-level alerts they can issue to their member countries. The notices do not force countries to turn over suspects but strongly urge them to, and countries who ignore such notices can come under pressure from the international community.
Moammar Gadhafi’s whereabouts are unknown. Libya’s new rulers said Wednesday they believe he may be hiding in the southern desert under the protection of ethnic Tuareg fighters, while two of his sons — Seif al-Islam and Muatassim — are holed up in cities besieged by revolutionary forces elsewhere in Libya.
Another Gadhafi son is with his daughter Aisha and wife in neighboring Algeria — along with other family members — while Khamis Gadhafi, who leads the Khamis Brigade that fought in the west, was either killed in battle, or is still alive, depending on whom you talk to in Libya