On Tuesday, Libya's justice minister met with U.S. Ambassador Deborah Jones on the capture of alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al Libi by American forces over the weekend in Tripoli; according to one of the officials present, the meet was "all very cordial albeit with concerns."
Libya's General National Congress demanded on Tuesday that U.S. officials hand over al Libi, spokesman Omar Hmidan said. In the meantime, Hmidan demanded that Libyan authorities and al Libi's family obtain access to him.
Over the weekend U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers captured al Libi in Tripoli. On Monday, al Libi was being held on a U.S. Navy warship, where he was being questioned by a high-value detainee interrogation group -- an FBI-led team with intelligence experts from the CIA and other agencies – to determine whether he has information about al Qaeda operations, future attacks, or the whereabouts of known associates, according to U.S. officials.
The 49-year-old al Libi is accused of playing a role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded about 4,000 more. It is unclear how long his interrogation will last, but a Defense Department statement explained that he is being held “lawfully under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya."
U.S. officials have said he will be transferred to New York for trial, as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have previously said that they prefer to try individuals such as al Libi in American courts.
He was indicted in the Southern District of New York in the embassy bombings and in connection with his alleged roles in al Qaeda conspiracies to attack U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. In the past, terrorism suspects who were captured on American soil generally have been tried in federal courts; examples of such captured terrorists are attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
However, it's "murky territory" when a fugitive is captured overseas by American forces, said James Forest, a former director of terrorism studies at West Point, but according to Forest, "my hunch is they'll probably go the criminal route."
When the White House in 2009 proposed trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects in Manhattan, the plan was met with staunch criticism over cost and the assertion that the five terror suspects, all non-American citizens, did not deserve the rights and protections civilian courts afford defendants.
Al Libi's case should not raise the same issues, CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin said, because, as the suspected 9/11 mastermind, Mohammed was "in a separate category from everyone else in the world." ; while the United States considers al Libi a dangerous terrorist, neither he nor his crimes are as well-known as Mohammed's, according to Toobin.