U.S. Judge Keeps Trial for Former Lieutenant to Gadhafi on Hold Due to Libyan Elections

War crimes lawsuits against Khalifa Hifter, a Libyan military commander and former lieutenant for late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, will remain on hold after a U.S. judge denied a request to revive them Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Hifter, who has declared his candidacy in Libya's upcoming presidential election, is facing three civil lawsuits alleging that he was responsible for the torture and deaths of political adversaries. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema initially put the lawsuits against Hifter on hold last month shortly before he would have been deposed in them, the AP reported. Brinkema denied a request to revive those lawsuits Friday, citing concerns that the filings were more of a political tool than an attempt to serve justice for his alleged victims.

Hifter lived in northern Virginia for years after defecting to the U.S. in the 1980s. Widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his stay, he is still a citizen of the U.S. and owns property in Virginia, according to the AP.

Gadhafi was overthrown and slain by a NATO-supported uprising in 2011, plunging the North African country into a decade of violence and disorder. His son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, is also running in Libya's presidential election later this month, though he was briefly blocked by Libya's High National Elections Committee from seeking office.

Hifter controlled large parts of the country amid the years of civil conflict in Libya, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hifter Lawsuit Paused
War crimes lawsuits against a Libyan military commander and former lieutenant for late dictator Moammar Gadhafi will remain on hold after a U.S. judge denied a request to revive them Friday. Above, Khalifa Hifter speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in al-Marj, Libya, on March 18, 2015. Mohammed El-Sheikhy/AP Photo

Hifter claimed immunity to the lawsuits as Libyan head of state, but Brinkema rejected those arguments and allowed the lawsuits to proceed. Hifter was due to be deposed when she decided to halt the lawsuits temporarily last month.

Brinkema made clear on Friday, though, that the pause in the lawsuits is only temporary, and that Hifter will have to sit for a deposition shortly after the elections are concluded.

The only hitch, she said, would be if Hifter won the election, which might allow Hifter to raise new claims of immunity. Brinkema said that issue could be dealt with down the road if it comes to fruition.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs had asked the judge to lift the stay, citing in part the fact that a judge has ruled Hifter ineligible for inclusion on the ballot.

But Brinkema said the situation remains too unsettled, and there was no harm in a short delay to get past the elections.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Gadhafi in 2011. Over the past decade, the oil-rich nation had been split between a government in the east, backed by Hifter, and a U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli, aided by western-based Libyan militias.

Gadhafi Lieutenant Lawsuit
A Libyan military commander and former lieutenant for late dictator Moammar Gadhafi has announced he is running for presidency. Gadhafi was overthrown and slain by a NATO-supported uprising in 2011, plunging the North African country into a decade of violence and disorder. Above, Gadhafi gestures with a green cane as he takes his seat behind bulletproof glass for a military parade in Green Square, Tripoli, Libya, on September 1, 2009. Ben Curtis/AP Photo