Sunday 8 April 2012

Captured spy chief may hold key to Lockerbie

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of the Maltese newspaper The Sunday Times.  It reads in part:]

Former ambassador to Malta Saad Elshlmani tells Mark Micallef Libya’s transitional government has good reason to want Muammar Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief in captivity. He can unlock so many of the regime’s secrets.

Saad Elshlmani never came across as a Gaddafi man. Moderate and straight talking, he managed to build a reputation among Maltese politicians as a level-headed operator who could be truly trusted, even when he was forced to front the regime’s erratic stands. (...)
Like many young Benghazi students of his generation, he took part in the student protests of the 1970s, which provoked one of the most repressive reactions in the regime’s 42-year history. Hundreds of young protesters were arrested, many were tortured and some executed in high profile, sometimes televised hangings, which succeeded in terrorising large swathes of the Libyan population into submission for decades.
Unlike two other students in his group, who were hanged publicly in 1977, Dr Elshlmani ‘got away’ with spending a few weeks in detention in 1976 – during which he came face to face with the feared Abdallah al-Senussi, Libya’s former intelligence chief and Col Gaddafi’s right hand man, who was recently captured in Mauritania.
Libya has demanded 62-year-old al-Senussi be sent to Libya rather than the International Criminal Court, defying some international observers who argue the fledgling state already has too much on its plate to be dealing with such high profile and potentially divisive trials.
But Dr Elshlmani, now the spokesman for the transitional government’s Foreign Ministry, argues that the people making these statements may not be fully appreciating Libya’s position.
“Abdallah al-Senussi, perhaps even more than Saif, holds the key to so many of the regime’s secrets that it is vital for us to be able to speak to him. There are many stories of people who were killed or disappeared mysteriously on whom, probably, only al-Senussi can shed light at this point.”
He was Gaddafi’s conduit, Dr Eshlmani says, pointing out that the dictator would never give out orders directly but would always go through his intelligence chief. If Libya had any involvement in the Lockerbie bombing, for instance, al-Senussi would know, he points out.
Dr Elshlmani should know a thing or two about Lockerbie. In 2003 he formed part of a secret think tank which helped broker the historic deal with the US that prompted the lifting of sanctions on Libya.
The 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was perhaps the biggest hot potato in those talks, but Dr Elshlmani says he knows little more than the next person with a good grasp of the facts surrounding the tragedy.
“When I was Ambassador to Malta we had assisted the lawyers of (Abdelbasset) Al Megrahi as they prepared for the appeal. They were very confident that with new evidence they had in hand, particularly surrounding the testimony of the Maltese witness Tony Gauci, Al Megrahi’s conviction would be overturned. But I cannot say for certain if Gaddafi was involved or not. The person able to do that is al-Senussi.”
Despite the Maltese authorities’ insistence that the bomb never left from Luqa airport, the courts still decided to convict Mr Al Megrahi.
Without resorting to torture, Dr Elshlmani insists, the Libyans would be able to extract from Mr al-Senussi this information and other missing links in some of the darker happenings of the past 42 years
“It’s about asking the right questions. If I speak to al-Senussi about certain events in the 1970s, for instance, I would be able to extract information from him because he would not be able to lie to me... I would be able to take him back to the day we met and remind him what he told me,” he says. “The ICC would simply not be able to do this.”

[For the next week I shall be travelling around southern Namibia and will be able to trawl for Lockerbie-related material and post to this blog only intermittently. Internet cafes and wifi hotspots are thin upon the ground in the Nama Karoo.]


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2012 (google translation, german/english):

    Former ambassador to Malta, Dr Saad Elshlmani, now the spokesman for the transitional government's Foreign Ministry, is known as an influenced "wind flag". With its customized "flattering statements" he received always a "sunny spot" by the Gadhafi Regime and now from NTC government.
    His comments on hear about the "Lockerbie-Case", are douptful and negligibly ...

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  2. I don't think the truth is going to come out where ElShlamani is involved. (9 Feb 2012)

  3. I think the hysteria when anyone Libyan is pulled in is pretty pathetic. If we focus on the facts it becomes clear that Libya wasn't involved. The focus turning to Libya was a political move at the time to take the focus away from others. That there is still so much determination to stay trained on Libya says how desperate some still are to keep focusing on Libya.

    Alas, until we have vaccines for both stupidity and apathy the masses will insist on ignoring all of it while the bent politicians keep churning out their lies.