Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi's most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was handed his death sentence in absentia.

Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi’s most prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was handed his death sentence in absentia.

TRIPOLI (AFP/Reuters) — A Libyan court has sentenced slain dictator Moamar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and eight other people to death for crimes during the 2011 uprising.

Former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and Gaddafi’s last prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi were also among those sentenced to death.

Al-Islam’s sentence was handed down in absentia as he is currently being held in the south-western town of Zintan by a militia opposed to the Tripoli authorities.

The 37 defendants were charged with crimes including murder and complicity in incitement to rape during the 2011 uprising that toppled the dictatorship.

Other charges brought before the Tripoli court also included kidnapping, plunder, sabotage and embezzlement of public funds.

The United Nations Human Rights office said it was “deeply disturbed” by the verdicts and sentences.

“We had closely monitored the detention and trial and found that international fair trial standards had failed to be met,” it said in a statement, citing a failure to establish individual criminal responsibility, lack of access to lawyers, claims of ill-treatment, and trials conducted in absentia.

The trial, which opened in the Libyan capital in April last year, has been dogged by criticism from human rights groups, as well as an unresolved dispute with the International Criminal Court in The Hague over jurisdiction in the case of Al-Islam.

The militia holding Al-Islam is loyal to the internationally recognised government which fled to the remote east last August when a rival militia alliance seized the capital and set up its own administration.

Al-Islam’s sole appearances before the court have been by video link and there have been none since May last year.

Most of the other defendants are held in the capital, but some are held in Libya’s third city Misrata, which is loyal to the Tripoli authorities.

The UN Security Council referred the conflict in Libya to the ICC in February 2011 amid Gaddafi’s repression of the popular uprising against his decades-old regime at the height of the Arab Spring.

Al-Islam is wanted by the Hague-based court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutors say that as part of his father’s “inner circle”, he “conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell, by all means, the civilian demonstrations against Gaddafi’s regime”.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about the trial, criticising the fact that the accused have had only limited access to lawyers and key documents.