December 15, 2010 / 1:58 PM / 9 years ago

France frees Gaddafi aide pending extradition hearing

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi (R) listens to his Chief of Protocol Nuri al-Mismari during the closing of the special summit on regional conflicts in Tripoli August 31, 2009. REUTERS/Ismail Zetouny

PARIS (Reuters) - A French court has released from custody a top aide of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, arrested in France in late November, ahead of an extradition hearing in the days or weeks ahead, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Nuri al-Mismari was arrested at the request of Libyan authorities on suspicion of embezzlement, but a Versailles court of appeal has ruled that the public prosecutor’s office had no right to detain him, his lawyer Frederic Landon said.

“The court decided that the public prosecutor was not an independent legal authority and so could not deprive him of his freedom,” Landon told Reuters.

France has given Libya 30 days to submit evidence backing its accusations against Mismari and its extradition request.

Supporters of Mismari, Gaddafi’s head of protocol and part of a tiny group of officials in his innermost circle, say he is a victim of a power struggle inside the ruling elite.

Standing out with his long white hair and tailored cowboy-style jackets, Mismari was a constant presence at public events where he would stand next to the Libyan leader.

It is unclear what brought Mismari to Paris. Some analysts have suggested he defected, his supporters say he was set up and a Libya Press agency report said he came for heart surgery.

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