Saif Qaddafi's arrest never confirmed, ICC says

Moammar Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, center, waves to troops loyal to his father in Tripoli, Libya Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. Al-Islam, who was earlier reported arrested by Libya's rebels, appeared at the hotel and spoke to reporters early Tuesday. AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

The International Criminal Court acknowledged a day after its prosecutor wrongly announced the arrest of Muammar Qaddafi's son that Libyan rebels never confirmed his capture, but insisted he would face justice if caught.

In an embarrassment for the court and rebels, Saif al-Islam defiantly appeared early Tuesday at a Tripoli hotel housing foreign journalists. He boasted that his father's regime still has control in Tripoli and will crush the rebellion.

Early Monday, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters rebels had arrested him but declined to reveal who gave him the news. Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said the message was a miscommunication and rebels never officially confirmed the arrest.

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"The prosecutor said he had received information about the arrest of Saif al-Islam, which is true, but we did not receive an official confirmation of this information," El Abdallah said.

Still, Moreno-Ocampo said he is committed to helping Libyan rebel authorities bring justice to the country. He did not mention the inaccurate reports in a brief written statement issued by his office on Tuesday.

Moreno-Ocampo said that if Qaddafi, Seif al-Islam and the regime's intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Sanoussi are arrested, "judges of the International Criminal Court will decide on the proper forum to conduct the trials."

Moreno-Ocampo charged the three men in May with ordering pro-Qaddafi forces to stamp out dissent by shooting and shelling civilians as they demonstrated for change and even as they left mosques.

The court issued international arrest warrants for all three men in June, but the court has no police force and is reliant on rebels to detain them.

Rebels have pledged to cooperate with the court, but also have voiced their desire to try Qaddafi in Libya for crimes during his 42 years in power.

The United Nations Security Council called in February for a probe into atrocities against opponents of Qaddafi's regime. Moreno-Ocampo could not have opened an investigation without the U.N. approval because Libya does not recognize the court's jurisdiction and has not ratified its founding treaty.

Saif al-Islam's appearance appeared to give a boost to loyalist forces, though it was short-lived. After spending most of Tuesday engaged in heavy fighting around Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya main compound, rebel forces finally penetrated the stronghold.

However, Muammar Qaddafi's whereabouts are still unknown and as CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk notes: "There are fears that during the last stand of Qaddafi, he could use his formidable supply of mustard gas, serious artillery, or disperse his supporters (mercenaries and troops) into Libya, without their uniforms, for later attacks."

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, earlier said the "danger is still there" as long as the longtime Libyan leader remains on the run.

He warned that pro-Qaddafi brigades are positioned on Tripoli's outskirts and could "be in the middle of the city in half an hour."

But NATO was less than impressed with Saif al-Islam's appearance.

"A brief appearance in the dead of night doesn't indicate somebody in control of the capital or anything at all," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. "It shows that they are on the run (and) as we've seen in the Balkans recently, those on the run from international justice can do so for some time, but they can't hide."

Saif al-Islam, with a full beard and wearing an olive-green T-shirt and camouflage trousers, turned up early Tuesday morning at the Rixos hotel, where about 30 foreign journalists are staying in Tripoli under the close watch of regime minders.

Riding in a white limousine amid a convoy of armored SUVs, he took reporters on a drive through parts of the city still under the regime's control, saying, "We are going to hit the hottest spots in Tripoli." Associated Press reporters were among the journalists who saw him and went on the tour.

The tour covered mainly the area that was known to still be under the regime's control — the district around the Rixos hotel and nearby Bab al-Aziziya, Qaddafi's residential compound and military barracks. The tour went through streets full of armed Qaddafi backers, controlled by roadblocks, and into the Qaddafi stronghold neighborhood Bu Slim.

At Bab al-Aziziya, at least a hundred men were waiting in lines for guns being distributed to volunteers to defend the regime. Saif al-Islam shook hands with supporters, beaming and flashing the "V for victory" sign.

We are here. This is our country. This is our people, and we live here, and we die here," he told AP Television News. "And we are going to win, because the people are with us. That's why were are going to win. Look at them — look at them, in the streets, everywhere!"

When asked about the ICC's claim that he was arrested by rebels, he told reporters: "The ICC can go to hell," and added "We are going to break the backbone of the rebels."

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