Saif Gaddafi in Sebha (photo by EPA)

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi was born on 25 June 1972 in Tripoli, Libya. He is the second eldest son of Muammar Gaddafi and the only son who holds a PhD degree. His mother is Safia Farkash, Muammar Gaddafi’s second wife. He has six brothers and two sisters.


In 1990, he gained a high school diploma from a public school in Tripoli called Ali Wraith Secondary School and started studying Engineering Science at Al Fatheh University in Tripoli. Four years later, he graduagted with a BSc in architecture engineering.
In 2000, he earned a master of business adminstration from IMADEC University International School of Business in Vienna. He was also awarded a PhD degree from LSE London School of Economics in 2007. His PhD thesis was entitled "The Role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions: from 'soft power' to collective decision-making?" where he addressed political reform. The complete thesis can be downloaded from here.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi at Ali Wraith secondary school, 1986 (photo by Rex Features)


In an interview with BBC in 2004, Dr. Saif explained that the new Libya is about bringing foreign capital and investment to Libya and building a new model for privatisation. He also promised to distribute Libya's vast oil wealth horizontally and to maximize the benefit for ordinary Libyans and increase the living standards for all Libyans. He also envisioned that Libya will be the biggest workshop in the world because of the huge number of projects that were being planned.

When asked whether he is going to succeed his father, as was being rumoured, he simply answered: "I can't survive with a direct democracy. You cannot have a direct democracy and a hereditary regime at the same time. They are against each other", giving a clear indication that he is not planning to inherit his father to become the next leader because Libya will be a fully democratic country in the future.

Roles played

Dr. Saif al-Islam played very important roles in international diplomacy and national reconciliation which qualify him to be a successful leader along with his western education.

In 1998, he founded the first official charity organization in Libya which is called "Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations" and was the only place in Libya where people can complain about torture and arbitrary detentions. This organization was responsible for intervening in many international and national problems to find a solution to those involved. It also worked very hard to free media and rehabilitate Islamist fighters held in Abu Salim prison.

The first time international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were allowed to enter Libya was in 2005 through the help of this organization. It also intervened in the Abu Salim prison victims who were killed by irresponssible soldiers in 1996 and compensated the families of the victims. His organization played a very important role in the HIV crisis that happened in Benghazi children hospital, in which more than 400 children were intentionally injected with HIV virus, and compensated the families of the victims and intervened to release the Bulgarian nurses who were accused of committing this heinous crime. Moreover, it played an important role in the Philippine peace process in 2001 by hosting the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Tripoli.

In 2008, Dr. Saif successfully negotiated with the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi compensating Libya for the colonial period. It was the first time that Libya has been compensated by any country ever. He also negotiated with victims families of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing by compensating each family $10 million to get the trade sanctions removed. Moreover, he spearheaded the negotiations regarding Libya's abandoning a WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) project in 2003.
During the uprising, Saif was responsible for releasing captured journalists and worked against the violence of his brothers' deadly brigades.


On 18 November 2011 Saif al-Islam was captured by ten fighters from a Zintani militia led by Al-Ajami Ali al-Ateri and five fighters from Hotmani tribe militia. He was betrayed by a desert guide from Hotmani tribe called Yussef Saleh al-Hotmani which he trusted to help him reach Niger border in order to seek urgent medical care for his injured fingers after the NATO airstrike in Bani Walid.
There were two cars in the convoy where the traitor was in one of the cars and Saif was in the other. He conviced Saif and his guards that the two cars should be at least three kilometers apart for safety reasons. However, the real reason was to give the so-called rebels time to regroup and capture the guards in the car with him first and then capture Saif and the guards with him in the other car.

Yussef Saleh al-Hotmani, Saif's desert guide (photo by REUTERS)

After his cpature, Saif was quickly taken to Zintan by plane to avoid any Gaddafi supporting tribal groups in the south attacking them to free Saif because the south was, and still is, largely supporting Gaddafi. He is still unlawfully detained with no access to a private lawyer in Zintan which is refusing to hand him over to the ICC claiming that he would get a fair trial in Libya.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in Zintan after being cpatured (photo by REUTERS)
Al-Ajami Ali al-Ateri speaking at press conference (photo by REUTERS)

Kangaroo Court

In August 2012, the pupet Libyan government declared that Saif would be tried in Zintan, a Libyan mountain town under the control of militia, in September. The trial was, however, adjourned claiming the they were still collecting evidence.
In January 2013, Saif appeared in court in Zintan where the trial was adjourned again due to the same reasons.
In April 2014, Saif appeared via a satellite video link in court in Tripoli because Zintan militia refused to hand him to Tripoli, citing security reasons. However, the real reason was that because they did not trust the puppet Libyan government in Tripoli which was protected by militias from Misrata city.
Due to the poor quality of the satellite link, he appeared only in four of the 24 trial sessions and eventually stopped appearing completely because of the fighting that erupted between Zintan militias and Misrata militias which resulted in the defeat of Zintan militias, and accordingly stopped cooperating with the Misrata-controlled government in Tripoli.

In July 2015, Saif was sentenced to death by firing squad in absentia by the puppet government in Tripoli while he was being held in Zintan which refused to hand him over to Tripoli or to implement their sentence. In addition the sentence has been criticised by OHCHR (United Nations Human Rights) and by HRW (Human Rights Watch).

I am not afraid to die but if you execute me after such a trial you should just call it murder and be done with it.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

Overall, the chances of a fair trial for Saif have been largely compromised. His ICC (International Criminal Court) defense counsel, Ms. Melinda Taylor, was detained by Zintan militia and she was blackmailed for her release. The Zintan militia promised her immediate release upon the condition that a key witness in Saif's trial to be handed over to Libya. This criminal action gives a vivid impression about how much, under the current regime, the rule of law is disregarded in the new Libya.
Since his capture in November 2011, Dr. Saif has been detained in isolation and denied contact with family and friends who could arrange legal counsel for him. No international organizations are allowed to visit him.

Up to this date, Saif al-Islam is still unlawfully detained in Zintan by the militia controlling this small mountain town.

Saif at court in Zintan (photo by REUTERS)

Last edited: May 01, 2017