[This is the headline over an article by Robert Verkaik in today's edition of The Mail on Sunday. It reads in part:]
Libya’s feared ‘torturer-in-chief’ has been offered asylum in the UK in return for his help to topple Muammar Gaddafi and his hated regime.
The secret offer to Libya’s former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, was made while he was still in Tripoli and helped persuade him to seek sanctuary in Britain.
But any promise of special protection for one of Gaddafi’s most notorious henchmen has provoked anger from those who want Koussa, 62, put on trial for his alleged crimes. (...)
MI6 officers first made contact with Koussa, who has been linked with the Lockerbie bombing and the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London, in the first few days after the UN-sanctioned attacks on Gaddafi’s military machine on March 19.
A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Central to the enticements was the prospect of living in safety in the UK under the protection of the asylum laws. Koussa’s greatest concern was what would happen to him once he left Gaddafi.
‘This was not a long, drawn-out operation – once contact had been made it all happened pretty quickly.’
Koussa fled Tripoli last Monday night after telling colleagues that he was seeking medical help in Tunisia. The convoy of official vehicles crossed the Tunisian border and went on to Tunis’s Djerba-Zaris airport. (...)
Koussa is still being questioned by MI6 officers and diplomats in a safe house at a secret location in the Home Counties. His wife, at least one of his children and his extended family remain in Tripoli.
He also has two daughters educated and living in the UK and a son who is a neurosurgeon working in the US.
The Foreign Office refused to discuss whether any kind of offer had been made to Koussa and reiterated that there would be no immunity from prosecution. But a spokesman added: ‘Discussions are ongoing on a range of issues, obviously (immigration) status is an important issue.’ (...)
Foreign Office officials will meet Scottish police and prosecutors tomorrow about their formal request to interview Koussa over the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie which killed 270 people in December 1988. Prosecutors are hoping to charge six Libyan intelligence agents in connection the attack and believe he holds vital evidence.
Mike O’Brien, a former Labour Foreign Office Minister who negotiated with Koussa in 2003 over Lockerbie compensation, weapons of mass destruction and the investigation into WPC Fletcher, said he expected him to claim asylum.
But he also said it would be difficult to prove any of the charges against him, raising the prospect of Koussa living in Britain as a free man.
He said: ‘Koussa was head of the organisation (the Libyan intelligence service) that was blamed for much of this, but proving what he knew and when he knew it will be more difficult.
‘Although people have to be brought to justice, it is sometimes difficult to find the evidence.’ (...)
MI6 is now targeting other key members of the regime, including Abu Zayd Dorba, the head of external intelligence, Mohamed al-Zwai, secretary general of the People’s Congress and Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, a former prime minister. (...)
Mustafa Gheriani, spokesman for the Libyan revolutionary council, said: ‘We want to bring him to court. This guy has so much blood on his hands. There are documented killings, torturing. We want him tried here. International law gives us that right.’
Should Koussa be granted asylum, it will not protect him from extradition to other countries where he is wanted in connection with terrorism offences.
America may want to seek his trial over Lockerbie, and relatives of the 170 victims of the 1989 airliner bombing in Niger want Koussa questioned over that attack.