[I am grateful to the distinguished Libyan journalist and commentator Dr Mustafa Fetouri for supplying this assessment of the Masud affair.]
Over the last two weeks I have tried to figure out what is going on in Libya concerning the situation of Libyan Abuajila Masud accused by the United States of being a culprit in the Lockerbie disaster. Since William Barr, the US Attorney General, publicly named him in December 2020 the man disappeared and little information has been obtained as to what is happening to him. Sorting out the real news from what is fake and lies in Libya today is very hard. It appears the entire political elite, government and the media they just addicted to lies. They simply lie even when there is no interest to do so. In the end I can say with a degree of certainty that:
1. Abu Agela Masud is indeed alive and he is living in the Abu Salim area just south of the capital Tripoli. He was released from Al-Hadba notorious prison sometime in 2017 after spending years there. That prison, until taken over after a day-long heavy fighting in 2017, was under the control of the terrorist group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). After he was forced to flee to Turkey I caught up with Kahlid Sherif, who used to be the director and top LIFG leader. I went to Istanbul in 2020 to meet him but he failed to show up. Through written message I asked him questions but he mostly refused to answer. In 2021, if I remember correctly, he was hosted on Clubhouse for a long session. I was kicked out of the room before I could ask all my questions. Even after that he refused to sit for an interview with me.
2. On the early morning of 17 November 2022, a group of armed men came to Masud’s house and took him away. His family, friends, and neighbours never knew where he is. They still do not. The government in Tripoli is silent. The House of Representatives, the Higher Council of State (consultative body), and the National Security Advisor (former judge) have rejected, in statements, all attempts to open the Lockerbie case while condemning the disappearance of Mr Masud. Ironically, their separate statements never actually, with certainty, said what is going on. None of them produced any reasonable narrative nor proof that the man indeed has been kidnapped let alone his whereabouts.
3. Mr Masud, has indeed been taken away. Who took him and where is pretty difficult to figure out. His family, in a statement, have confirmed this. But I suspect that the statement may not be true and authentic and actually written by the family. It simply does not sound right. I have been trying to contact the family but so far failed to do so.
4. The narrative/rumours (nothing is certain) go like this: the Tripoli government wants to please the US to remain in power. Foreign minister Al-Mangoush in November 2021 did hint in a BBC interview about the possibility of handing over Masud to the US. This is the first time the corrupt Tripoli government ever talked about Lockerbie. At the time I led a social media campaign, including several TV appearances on prominent Libya TV channels. The public reaction supporting me was huge and the minister was forced to clarify her comments. She even denied what was attributed to her in that BBC interview, despite the fact a video clip of that conversation was aired! And then silence until the news/rumours broke last week.
5. Finally: I never believed that the US is serious about extraditing Mr Masud to stand trial. However I tried, I could not confirm that the Libyan side received any official request from the Americans to extradite the man. There are no indications that the Americans are really seeking him. One simple indication of that is the fact that, as of today, Masud’s name is not on the FBI list of most wanted. I recall in 1991 the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was on the top list as soon as he was indicted. Would the corrupt Tripoli government hand Masud over if it believed that could help it stay in power? It is unlikely, but such government is capable of committing almost any sin against the country and its people.