Niger will not extradite Kadhafi son Saadi: prime minister

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Niger has no plans to send ousted Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's footballer son Saadi home to face justice, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said Thursday on a visit to France.

Earlier, the global police agency Interpol had issued a notice warning to its member states, which include Niger, that Libya is seeking Saadi's arrest for his alleged crimes while head of the country's football federation.

"Saadi Kadhafi is in safety, in security in Niamey, in the hands of the Niger government. There's no question of him being extradited to Libya for the moment," Rafini told AFP in the western French town of Saint-Brieuc.

"We need to be sure he will be allowed a fair defence," he said. "Are those conditions in place today? No."

The 38-year-old playboy fled Libya across its southern frontier to Niger after revolutionary forces stormed Tripoli and overthrew his authoritarian father's 42-year regime. He was last seen in Niger's capital Niamey.

Interpol said in a statement from its Lyon headquarters that Saadi was wanted "for allegedly misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation."

"It urged member states to help locate him" with a view to returning him to Libya where an arrest warrant for him has been issued.

"As the commander of military units allegedly involved in the repression of demonstrations by civilians during Libyas uprising, Saadi Kadhafi is also subject to a United Nations travel ban and assets freeze," it said.

Saadi, the third of Kadhafi's seven sons, renounced a football career in Italy in 2004 to join the Libyan army, where he led an elite unit.

He was captain of his national team and president of the Libyan Football Association and remained a symbol of the murky ties between Libyan oil money and Italian professional football.

When he was 20, he trained with Italian clubs Juventus and Lazio.

He remained a shareholder in the leading Turin club Juventus by virtue of being the chairman of Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company, which holds 7.5 percent of the shares in the club.

He also tried to buy Roman side Lazio in 2002 after the collapse of the Cirio food empire, which owned the club.

Too big, too slow, not strong enough technically, Saadi was not at the level required for the Italian first class division football but was recruited by Perugia in 2003 for marketing reasons.

His first game was a media sensation, but he played only once in two seasons (2003-2005) and he had barely kicked a ball when he was suspended by Perugia after testing positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.

During his brief playing career he used to stay in a five-star hotel in the centre of the city, occupying an entire floor, with a suite for 20 people.

He made few friends in the Libyan national team either.

"We felt hindered. He was still the son of the head of the state. He was not on equal footing," goalkeeper Samir Abboud recalls, alleging that Saadi could not even pass a ball.

© 2011 AFP

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