Libyan court has ordered ex-interim leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil to be questioned over the 2011 killing of top rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younes.
Mr Jalil, who chaired the now-dissolved National Transitional Council (NTC) when Gen Younes was shot, gave varying accounts of how the commander had died.
Eleven people have so far been charged in connection with the murder case.
Gen Younes was viewed with suspicion because of his formerly close position to deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The commander had been part of the group that helped bring Col Gaddafi to power in 1969. He served as interior minister before becoming the highest-ranking military leader to defect to the rebel side in February last year.
A few months later, his body was found riddled with bullets on the outskirts of Benghazi. The fatal shooting occurred shortly after Gen Younes had been issued with a warrant for questioning and recalled from the front line in the city of Brega.
Varying accounts of how he was killed were then given by officials at the time, including Mr Jalil.
“The court demands the referral of Mustafa Abdel Jalil, former head of the NTC, to military prosecution for investigation in the case of Abdel Fattah Younes,” judge Abdullah al-Saidi said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We will then take a decision based on what the investigation reveals.”
Gen Younes’s son, who had attended the hearing, said the ruling was a “a great step forward”, Reuters news agency reported.
A small crowd gathered outside the courtroom chanted: “Your blood will not go in vain, oh colonel”, according to the agency.
Of the 11 suspects involved in the case, only one man has so far been charged with the actual killing and remanded in custody.
Earlier this year, a judge investigating Gen Younes’s death was gunned down on his way to a mosque in Benghazi.
[July 28]Abdel Fattah Younes, a head of the Libyan rebel’s armed forces and two of his aides were killed by gunmen Thursday,
Rebel security had arrested Younes and two of his aides early on July 28 from their operations room near the rebels’ eastern front.
Security officials said at the time that Younes was to be questioned about suspicions his family still had ties to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Younes and his two aides were shot before they arrived for questioning. Aljazeera
Mr. Younis had a power struggle with another ex-general, Khalifa Heftar, who also has a senior position in the rebel military ranks. Many rebels remained suspicious of Younes longstanding ties to the Gaddhafi regime.
Mr. Younis disappeared from his operations room late July 27 night after forces sent by the rebel government’s Transitional National Council detained him for questioning, . Mr. Younis always traveled in heavily guarded convoys, fueling suspicions among his supporters that the detention and attack was carried out by rivals inside the rebel leadership. WSJ
Hours before the commander’s death was announced, rebel military spokesman Mohammed al-Rijali had said Younis was taken for interrogation from his operations room near the front line to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya.
Later, Abdul-Jalil presented a different scenario, saying Younis had been “summoned” for questioning on “a military matter,” but that he had not yet been questioned when he was killed.
He also called on all rebel forces to intensify their efforts to find the men’s bodies, but did not explain how the deaths were discovered.
Further complicating matters, another security officer, Fadlallah Haroun, told The Associated Press before Abdul-Jalil’s announcement that security had found three badly burned bodies. Two of them were dead and one was unconscious, Fadlallah said, adding that one was known to be Younis, though they didn’t know which one. WP
When rebellion came to the streets of Benghazi in February, Younis, a native of the city, was Gaddafi’s natural choice as the man to crush the uprising.
Instead, on arrival in the city he announced he was joining the rebels, and persuaded Benghazi’s Interior Ministry brigade to switch sides with him.
By March, he was commanding the rebel army but clashed with a rival, Khalifa Hefter, a former Libyan army general who returned to join the uprising after 20 years living in exile in the United States.
Hefter was given the top job in late March, only for Younis to be declared the chief of staff by the National Transitional Council a month later.
But many rebels were unhappy that a key member of the Gaddafi regime should have been appointed commander of opposition forces.
The rebel leader Abdul Jalil conveyed an intense anxiety not to alienate General Younes’s tribe. Instead of appearing with other members of the rebel council as expected, he sat at a table with men he said were elders of the Obeidi tribe. He repeatedly said he wanted to “pay respects” to the tribe for its sacrifice and understanding, calling it “strong and deep.” “We have been expecting this,” a security guard said as he hustled a group of journalists into the hotel for safety. “They are the largest tribe. They control most of the east.”
The eruption of tribal animosities within Benghazi is itself a blow to the rebels’ self-image as a movement bringing the whole country together behind the banner of freedom and democracy. Tripoli and other Western cities initially seemed to rise up with the Benghazi movement before Colonel Qaddafi reasserted control.
The Qaddafi side, on the other hand, has sought from the beginning to portray the uprising as essentially a tribal war pitting east against west, playing on rivalries that go back to the years before Colonel Qaddafi, when Libya was ruled by a monarch in the east.
Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters acknowledge that he still holds power in the face of the NATO bombing mainly because of the loyalty of a handful of big Western tribes.