BENGHAZI, Libya -- The man who led Libya’s rebel movement at the height of U.S. and NATO involvement in last year’s uprising has been ordered to face questions over the assassination of the top rebel army general whose troops helped end Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
A Libyan judge ruled Wednesday in Benghazi that military prosecutors must question Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the former leader of the National Transitional Council, which served as the rebel government during last year’s uprising, in the July 2011 assassination of Abdel-Fattah Younis, Gadhafi’s former interior minister and one of the first major defectors of the regime.
Jalil and 10 others have been charged with Younis’ death, though none has been arrested.
"The court demands the referral of Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, former head of the NTC, to military prosecution for investigation in the case of Abdel-Fattah Younis," Judge Abdullah al Saidi said at a hearing for the accused, according to a Reuters account.
Jalil, who charmed U.S., NATO and European leaders in the early days of the uprising, was a factor in the U.S. and NATO decision to intervene here. A judge and former justice minister under Gadhafi, he promised to bring stability and leadership once the rebels ended Gadhafi’s rule.
Younis’ death exposed deep-seated mistrust and division among the rebels. Those fractures continue today as various armed groups vie to control Libya.
Jalil famously announced Younis’ death before a body had been recovered, saying Gadhafi loyalists had killed Younis and two of his aides as they were returning to Benghazi from the town of Brega to face questions over “a military matter,” insinuating that Younis had been disloyal to the rebellion.
Younis, who publicly declared his break with Gadhafi just days after the rebel uprising began in February 2011, was considered a hero by some and a savior of the rebels’ flailing military effort. Others thought he was an untrustworthy defector who couldn’t break ties with Gadhafi that easily.
Younis had worked for Gadhafi since the 1969 coup that brought the then-27-year-old Gadhafi to power. As interior minister, Younis held a key security post in Gadhafi’s government for years, and some rebels thought he should have been tried for his Gadhafi ties, not selected as the movement’s military leader.
Jalil resigned from his post in August when a new government was named. There was no immediate comment from him about Wednesday’s ruling. He’s living in the eastern Libyan city of Beyida.