TUNIS — Tunisia extradited Libya’s former prime minister to his country on Sunday, despite concerns by Tunisia’s president and human rights groups that he could be tortured or unfairly prosecuted there.
The decision by Tunisia’s prime minister to send Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi home to face trial appeared to set up a potential clash between the president and prime minister of this North African country, the top two officials in the governing coalition.
Later Sunday, Libya’s prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, held a news conference in Tripoli to announce the return of Mahmoudi, who had served as the last prime minister of deposed Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
‘‘Today, he was delivered by the Tunisian government, and he’s now kept in a prison managed by the Justice Ministry,’’ said Keib, adding that Mahmoudi will be tried for alleged crimes against the Libyan people.
Mahmoudi, 67, was arrested in September for illegally crossing the frontier into Tunisia as he tried to flee to Algeria, where Khadafy’s family members had sought refuge.
Since then Libya had been clamoring for the repatriation of Mahmoudi to answer for crimes it says he committed during Khadafy’s regime.
But officials from Libya’s former regime have not fared well in the hands of the Libyan rebels, with Khadafy and one of his sons being executed upon capture last year.
Bechir Essid, one of Mahmoudi’s lawyers, sharply criticized Sunday’s extradition. ‘‘I strongly condemn this decision, which harms the dignity of Tunisia, its religion, and its moral principles,’’ said Essid, adding that his client’s health is declining.
In January, 15 Tunisian and international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, signed a statement opposing Mahmoudi’s extradition, saying he risked death or torture if he was returned to Libya.