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Gadhafi's son, dozens of members of former regime, stand trial in Libya

Saif al-Islam, son of Libya's late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, looks on in the accused cell as he stands trial in May, in Libya's northwestern town of Zintan.

The son of deposed and slain Libyan ruler Col. Moammar Gadhafi appeared in court west of Tripoli on Thursday on charges of harming state security.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the most high profile of Col. Gadhafi’s children, was due to appear in court in the capital Tripoli. But he missed the hearing because the militia who have been holding him in the town of Zintan since his 2011 capture refused to hand him over to the central government, a sign of its continued weakness after Libya's civil war.

The case in Zintan was adjourned until Dec. 12 because of a lack of evidence.

Footage from Reuters showed two guards usher Gadhafi into a caged area of the Zintan court. He was dressed in a blue uniform and addressed the courtroom through a microphone. He said it wanted the legal proceedings to continue to be carried out in Zintan, according to a translation from the video.

Gadhafi, the only member of the family to go on trial so far, faces charges from the Zintan militia that captured him as he was trying to flee to Niger.

Despite Gadhafi 's absence from the courthouse in Tripoli, some 36 other suspects from the former Libyan regime, including Moammar Gadhafi's intelligence chief Abdullah Senoussi, appeared in court in Tripoli, the AP reported. They face charges ranging from murder, forming armed groups in violation of the law, inciting rape, and kidnappings.

Several dozen people protested outside the Tripoli court -- most of them relatives of people who died during the eight-month civil war.

Asked about Gadhafi' chances of survival in custody in Zintan, his lawyer John Jones told Britain's Sky News: "I'm not only hopeful that he will survive, but that he will be in the Hague [to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC)] one day."

The ICC has warrants out for the arrest of Gadhafi and Senoussi on allegations of crimes against humanity. Libyan officials had appealed against the warrant, but the ICC rejected this in July, questioning the ability of the Libyan state to give the men a fair trial.

Over the summer, judges from The Hague-based court ruled that Libya cannot give Gadhafi's son a fair trial and asked authorities to hand him over.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was long seen as the most westernized figure of the family.

In 2008 he was awarded a Ph.D from the London School of Economics (LSE). His studies were mired in controversy after it emerged that a charity he ran made a 1.5-million-pound ($2.4 million) donation to the university. A subsequent inquiry could not rule out that this money was a bribe.

Israeli actress and model Orly Weinerman last year claimed she had a romantic relationship with Gadhafi, and appealed for his release.

The 41-year-old said the relationship began in London in 2005, and has recently appealed to Western governments to save Gadhafi's life.

But despite his courting the world outside Libya he was a high-profile figure at home. He was considered a key member of his father’s inner circle, and made incendiary statements encouraging violence against demonstrators when fighting broke out to unseat the family from power.

NBC News' Charlene Gubash and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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