Showing posts sorted by date for query Abdul Ati Obeidi. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query Abdul Ati Obeidi. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Friday 5 September 2014

Blair, Gaddafi, Megrahi

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:

Tony Blair and Colonel Gadaffi discussed al-Megrahi

Tony Blair discussed with Colonel Gadaffi how best to “find a way through" for the jailed Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi after BP formally signed an exploration deal in 2007, according to Libya’s Europe minister.

In an interview with The Sunday Times in Tripoli yesterday, Abdulati al-Obeidi, the minister, said that al-Megrahi had been on the agenda during Blair’s visit that year.

“They (Blair and Gadaffi) discussed possible ways on how legally to bring al-Megrahi to Libya, whether through British or international laws or the Scottish system,” the minister said.

“At that time they were merely exchanging ideas. The idea was discussed as a title. Everyone was looking for a relationship to continue and prosper into the future and to find a way out for Abdul Baset, but nothing was agreed." (...)

The minister, Libya’s longest-serving politican, going back since 1968, said he had been asked by his government to become involved in the negotiations over al-Megrahi’s release following the prisoner’s cancer diagnosis.

It was he who first conveyed Libya’s concerns to Bill Rammell, a Foreign Office minister at the time, about the possible consequences should al-Megrahi die in prison.

“I told Rammell and then (Ivan) Lewis, his successor, that al-Megrahi was very sick with cancer and that if he died in prison it would be disastrous in general, not just with regards to trade issues, but more importantly with public opinion, as people here and in the Middle East believed he was innocent, a hero.

“If he had died in prison they would also have believed that his illness was brought about intentionally and this would have been bad.”

He said he had conveyed the same message to Scottish officials.

It was then that Rammell had told him that neither Gordon Brown, the prime minister, nor David Miliband, the foreign secretary, wanted al-Megrahi to die in prison.

Legal experts were hired to explore ways in which to seek his freedom and they were made aware of possible release on compassionate grounds as well as under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.

The minister said al-Megrahi had insisted on dropping his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing in order to give both options a better chance.

“He was a sick man, a dying man who wanted to return home, reunite with his family and see them before he died,” he said. Al-Megrahi had declared when he made his decision: “I want to die among my family.”

[The above are excerpts from an article in The Sunday Times.]

Further information about Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, a highly significant figure in the Lockerbie saga, is to be found in blogposts here. My take on the “deal in the desert” can be read here.

Monday 14 April 2014

Gaddafi sons, officials, go on trial in Libya

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of the Maltese newspaper The Times.  It reads in part:]

Libyan prosecutors have opened the trial of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi's sons and former regime officials  in a major test for the North African state's transition to a democracy.

Neither Saadi Gaddafi or Saif al-Islam were in the courtroom at Tripoli's Al-Hadba prison, but Gaddafi's ex-spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi was among the former officials sitting behind a fenced-off section, a Reuters reporter said. (...)

Senussi was joined in the court by Gaddafi's former prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, and former foreign minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, a Reuters reporter said. Also in the court was ex-intelligence chief Buzeid Dorda, who had appeared at earlier trial proceedings.

The men face charges ranging from corruption to war crimes related to the deaths during the 2011 uprising, which expanded into a civil war that eventually ousted Gaddafi. The former Libyan leader was later killed after his capture. (...)

[Abuzed Omar Dorda and Abdel-Ati al-Obeidi both a played a highly significant and, in my view, honourable, part in the resolution of the Lockerbie impasse between the UK, the USA and Libya. No mention is made in this report (or in any of the others that I have seen today) of Mohammed al-Zwai, another important figure in the Lockerbie affair, though he has been named as a defendant in earlier reports.]

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi on the release of Megrahi: four years ago, with an update

[Another piece from the blog archive during this fallow period for Lockerbie developments. This one is from 25 March 2010:]

“I asked him about Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, the man convicted in the Pan Am 103 atrocity, in which 270 were killed, when the flight blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. The Scottish Judiciary released Megrahi in August on compassionate grounds [RB: the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, who released Megrahi, is a minister in the Scottish Government, not a member of the Scottish judiciary], as doctors gave him just three months to live. Seven months later he is still alive. Gaddafi said, ‘The Americans shouldn’t be angry because this man is innocent, I believe he is innocent. Second, it was not a Libyan decision to release him. They should go to the UK and discuss the issue with the UK and not Libya. And the third issue--he is very sick. This is a fact. But he is still alive. You should ask God about that.’”

[From an interview by Amy Kellogg with Saif Gaddafi, reported in the Live Shots section of the Fox News website. In a later article on the same website, Ms Kellogg writes:]

Though Libya renounced its weapons of mass destruction program back in 2003, a US Embassy didn’t open in Tripoli until late 2008. That was after Libya paid compensation for the families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103. (...)

Despite the normalization of relations, there is much historic baggage weighing on the new relationship, including painful memories of the 1988 Pan Am 103 incident, and for the Libyans, the bombing of Leader Moammar Gaddafi’s home by the Americans in 1986.

When a Scottish court released the man convicted in the Pan Am 103 bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds, as doctors determined he had just three months left to live, many Americans reacted angrily, as it brought back painful memories. US Ambassador Gene Cretz acknowledges that.

“There’s no doubt that the impact of that picture of Mr. Megrahi being greeted here struck at the very heart of American sensitivities not only in Washington but throughout our country, because it was a reminder of a very very painful past and a present that continues to be painful for the families who lost relatives and friends in that incident and others.”

I asked Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader about the release of Megrahi, who is still alive seven months after his release.

"Americans shouldn't be angry because this man is innocent. I believe he is innocent. Second, it was not a Libyan decision to release him. They should go to the UK and discuss the issue with the UK not Libya. The third issue, he's very sick. This is a fact. That he is still live you should ask God."

Many Libyans make the distinction between Libya’s “accepting responsibility” for the bombing, and actually being guilty of the atrocity, considering Megrahi the fall guy. Yet a Scottish court convicted Megrahi and that fact has not changed. [RB: But an official Scottish body, the SCCRC, has said that that conviction may have been a miscarriage of justice.]

Cretz said even though it was a Scottish court that released him [RB: it was a Scottish Government minister, not a Scottish court], that act caused some damage to US-Libya relations.

“It was a setback no doubt it did impact on relations and this is one of the reasons that we are trying to brick by brick , day by day, discussion by discussion, lay down a path of normalization with this country. So that after 30 years of estrangement and hostility we are able to begin to find a language to talk to each other and to also make each other aware of our cultural and political imperatives and sensitivities.” 

[RB (2014): Shortly after this the “cultural and political imperatives and sensitivities” of the United States embraced logistical and military support for the overthrow of Gaddafi, with the dire results for Libya that are now increasingly apparent

Saif al-Islam is amongst those who are due to go on trial in Libya on 14 April. Also among the accused is Abuzed Omar Dorda. In the reports I see no mention of important Lockerbie figures Abdul Ati al-Obeidi and Mohammed al-Zwai, but I suspect that they will also feature.]  

Sunday 27 October 2013

US intelligence may have bugged phones of Scottish ministers over Megrahi release

[An article by Ben Borland in today’s Scottish edition of the Sunday Express reads as follows:]

American spies may have bugged Alex Salmond's phone calls and emails during the furore surrounding the release of the Lockerbie bomber, it was claimed last night.

The US National Security Agency has been accused of monitoring the mobile phones of at least 35 "world leaders", including the German chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron was forced on the defensive at an EU summit that was overshadowed by claims of snooping by the NSA and Britain's GCHQ in Cheltenham.
Now two senior Lockerbie campaigners said they believe the Americans also targeted the Scottish Government, including the First Minister and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, in 2009.
At the time, political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic were looking on anxiously as Mr MacAskill decided the fate of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
The Libyan, jailed for his part in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, had contracted terminal prostate cancer and was eventually sent back to Tripoli to die.
Despite the outraged reaction in Washington, sources close to Megrahi said the US Government appeared to have advance knowledge of Mr MacAskill's decision.
Professor Robert Black, the architect of Megrahi's trial under Scots Law, said: "From my own contacts with the Libyan regime, I was led to believe that although the Americans huffed and puffed about the release they were reconciled to it.
"I was led to understand that they knew in advance of the decision. [Former foreign minister Abdul Ati] Obeidi always told me he knew and the Americans knew, by one means or another.
"The question is whether Alex Salmond's phone was one of those with a 'flag' on it from the NSA - although I bet it wasn't until the Megrahi release.
"Now with the referendum coming up, and the future of Trident and Nato and all that sort of thing, I think it might still be flagged."
Professor Black is a founder of the Jusice For Megrahi (JFM) campaign, which is calling for a public inquiry into the conviction of the man who eventually died in 2012.
He added: "I have always had a suspicion that there was monitoring going on. When Jim [Swire] and I speak on the phone Jim will usually say 'Hi guys' to anybody who might be listening in.
"It's an assumption that those of us in JFM have always made. Although most of what we do ends up in the public domain, if there is anything sensitive we usually contact each other by snail mail."
Dr Swire, another JFM member whose daughter Flora was among the 270 people killed in the atrocity, said it was not "remotely difficult to believe" the Americans had bugged Scottish ministers.
He added: "There is no way of telling whether Kenny MacAskill or Alex Salmond have had their conversations bugged but personally I'm sure they have, whether it was by GCHQ at Cheltenham or by the Americans."
Dr Swire said he believes he has been under surveillance since the 1990s and once put the theory to the test by sending a fax containing false information to a trusted contact.
The information - which could not have come from any other source - appeared in the London Evening Standard newspaper the following day.
He said: "This indicated that my faxes in those days were being intercepted. Considering how much technology has advanced since then, I have no doubt that my emails and phone calls are actually monitored all the time."
Members of the so-called 'Five Eyes' alliance - the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - have agreed not to spy on each other.
Both the Scottish Government and the White House press office declined to comment on the latest claims.
However, a spokesman for President Barack Obama was willing to guarantee the US has never targeted Mr Cameron - although they may have listened to his conversations with other world leaders who were under surveillance.
[I may add that it was the Sunday Express that approached Dr Swire and me with the suggestion of telephone interception, not vice versa.]

Friday 20 September 2013

Gaddafi-era Lockerbie officials go on trial in Tripoli

[The trial of thirty-seven Gaddafi-era officials on charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and human rights crimes during the revolution, opened yesterday in Tripoli. Most media reports have mentioned only one of the accused, Abdullah al-Senussi, Gaddafi’s intelligence chief and brother-in-law. However, the report in the Libya Herald refers to a number of other defendants:]

The Tripoli hearing was largely concerned with the formalities of establishing charges and identities. Along with Senussi who looked thin and gaunt, appearing to confirm his doctor’s claim that he has prostate cancer, the 36 accused appearing today included Qaddafi’s External Security Agency head Abu Zaid Omar Dorda, former Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, the General People’s Conference head Mohamed al-Zway, former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, and Tripoli Internal Security Agency head Mansour Dhou.

Unlike Senussi, Dorda, Obeidi and Zway have already made court appearances in Tripoli. Dorda’s case was adjourned on several occasions while Obeidi and Zway, who were arrested in July 2011, were found not guilty in June on charges of maladministration while in office and wasting public funds. (...)

At the end of two hours today, during which the defendants confirmed their names and the charges against them were read out, the pre-trial hearing was adjourned until 3 October. By then, the judge and his deputy ordered, defence lawyers must have reviewed their clients’ files and prepared their defences.

The proceedings were watched by a handful of foreign press reporters alongside local print and media journalists. Outside the court, there was a small protest by families of Busleem prison massacre victims, many with placards demanding that Senussi and others be hanged.  Security was high both inside and outside the courtroom, with local shops being asked to close up.

[Messrs Dorda, Obeidi and Zway were all heavily involved in the resolution of the Lockerbie impasse.  I had many meetings with all of them and always found them open, trustworthy and honest in their dealings with me.]

Saturday 22 June 2013

Libya's judges confront the past

[This is the headline over an interesting article by Mohamed Eljarh published yesterday in the Transitions blog on the website of the influential Foreign Policy magazine.  It reads in part:]

Ever since the revolution, Libyans have been waiting to see how the court system is going to settle accounts with Qaddafi-era officials. Now the first verdict has finally arrived -- but it clearly wasn't what a lot of people were expecting.

A Libyan court in Tripoli has acquitted two former officials in Colonel Qaddafi's regime of wasting public money by spending $2.7 billion on payments to the families of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Ex-Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi and Mohamed al-Zwai, the former head of Qaddafi's legislature, stood accused of arranging compensation for the families of victims of the attack. The two men were trying to persuade the survivors to drop their claims against Libya. The prosecution had charged that Obeidi and Zwai were responsible for negotiating settlements with the Lockerbie families and had paid out double the amount originally planned.
This would be the first verdict in a number of cases against key figures in the old Qaddafi regime by the new Libyan government following his killing in 2011. Despite being acquitted in this case, both men will remain in custody while further investigations take place ahead of a wider trial in August, where allegations of war crimes, including mass killings and incitement to rape, will be put to the court, according to state prosecutor al-Seddik al-Sur. Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi are among the defendants in this wider trial.
While the families of the two officials celebrated the innocent verdict and expressed their happiness with the Libyan judiciary, the public prosecutor was quick to announce a new trial and took measures to ensure that the two officials will in custody, emphasizing that the Lockerbie-related charges are a "side case." The judge gave no reasons for his verdict after the trial, which lasted seven months. The two officials were tried under Qaddafi-era laws.
Many Libyans are cautiously celebrating what they claim to be "the independence of the judiciary." However, after the court's verdict some prominent Facebook pages and groups (mainly pro-isolation law and pro-militias) started calling for the cleansing of the judiciary, claiming that the revolution has yet to happen within the judicial establishment in Libya. They claim that the current judicial establishment will find Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi innocent, and that the judges affected by the isolation process will hamper the implementation of the isolation law. The fear of attacks on the judiciary and the justice system could explain the quick announcement by the country's public prosecutor that the two acquitted officials will remain in custody as his office prepares for these broader proceedings.
However, many in Libya called the trial a "waste of time." Claiming that the Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi have yet to stand trial, and that these "side cases" are just used by the authorities to buy them time as they keep delaying the trials of the key crimes committed by the former regime. The general sentiment between Libyans is that the authorities have failed to facilitate or build any substantial cases against many of the ex-regime officials, and that the evidence required to convict them is not available. (...)
Lawyers for Justice in Libya expressed concern at the increase in attacks on judges and lawyers in Libya. Most recently, a senior judge from the eastern city of Albaida was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in front of the local courthouse in Derna last Sunday.
Moreover, the legitimacy and independence of the judiciary in Libya is compromised by its lack of autonomy and by interference from the General National Congress (Libya's interim legislature). Judges throughout Libya have condemned the recent Political Isolation Law, and some have gone on strike because it targets the judiciary. An appeal by more than 60 judges and lawyers against the law has been submitted to the Supreme Court. They argue that the judiciary should be independent and that the isolation law violates the principle of the separation of powers among the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judiciary). The judges stress that any reform within the judicial establishment should come from within, that it should be based on consultation with the legislative and executive branches of government, and that it should not imposed by one or the other.
In post-revolution Libya, the process of judicial institutionalization is constantly undermined by political instability and the lack of security as well as by the struggle for power between the different factions in the absence of the constitution. Ensuring the independence of the judiciary and security of its personnel is of vital importance for Libya's transition. Ultimately, the absence of security for justice sector personnel has led and will continue to lead to indefinite delays in the processing of the cases of ex-regime officials and conflict-related detainees.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Further postponement of Lockerbie trial of Zwai and Obeidi

[The following report appeared on 19 March on the English language website of Libya TV:]

The Tripoli Court of Appeal have deferred prosecution of the former regime’s officials, Mohamed Abu Al-Quasim al-Zwai and Abdul Ati al-Obeidi until Monday 6th May.

The accused both face charges including of causing damage to public property, granting compensation to the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims, a total of US$2.7 billion.

The Head of Court called the adjournment to allow counsel for the accused of the defence submission, within 15 days of Monday’s meeting. [RB: I do not know what this means, but it may possibly refer to an opportunity being accorded to the defence to file a motion to dismiss the charges, something hinted at in some earlier reports.]

Relatives of both defendants attended the hearing, as did human rights experts, along with local and international media.

[Earlier items on this blog about the proceedings against Messrs Zwai and Obeidi can be found here.]

Friday 14 September 2012

Libyan newspaper report on Lockerbie compensation trial

[What follows is the text of a report published on the website of the Libya Herald:]

Libyan prosecutor says payout to Lockerbie victims “a waste of public money”

The trial of Mohamed Zway, the former secretary of the General People’s Congress, and Abdul-Ati Al-Obeidi, the secretary of the People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, opened in Tripoli on Monday.

The two, who have been held in  jail since they were arrested 14 months ago, are accused of poor performance of their duties while in office and of maladministration, specifically wasting of public funds in respect of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The prosecution claims that it was wrong to organise a compensation deal of $2.7 billion to the victims’ families in return for getting Libya removed from the list of the states that sponsor terrorism.The judge said that the deal “was a waste of public money especially when there was no guarantee the charges in the Lockerbie case would be dropped if the compensation was made”.

The charges have surprised many observers as they imply that the two should have been more effective in serving the Qaddafi regime and that the Lockerbie deal should not have happened.

Both men denied the charges in court.

Their lawyer made several requests, the most important of which was a postponement of proceedings in order to give the defence time to examine all the documentary evidence. He also asked to see his clients in private and, pending a postponement, requested the court to release them on bail.

Bail was refused but the court permitted the lawyer to meet the defendents in private. It accepted the request to photocopy some of the evidence but none of the classified documents.

The trial was adjourned to 15 October 2012.

At a press conference on Sunday, former Justice Minister Mohamed Al-Alagy claimed that this trial and and those of other Qaddafi officials were “invalid” because the law was not being properly implemented.  He said that the prosecution was sidestepping due process whereby such cases must first go the Indictment Court to be processed.

[When I first met Mr Zway (or Zwai or al-Zwai) in 1994, he was himself Libya’s Minister of Justice.  He was one of the army officers who, with Muammar Gaddafi, mounted the 1969 coup against the king, Idris al-Senussi, and the only one still holding high office in the regime. Abdel Ati al-Obeidi was then Libyan ambassador to Morocco but subsequently held many other offices, including ambassador to Italy, Deputy Foreign Minister with responsibility for European relations, head of Gaddafi’s private office and Foreign Minister.  In all of these incarnations he remained as chairman of the Libyan Government committee on Lockerbie.]

Monday 2 May 2011

Britain expels Libya ambassador

[This is the headline over a report published yesterday on The Guardian website. It reads in part:]

Britain has ordered the expulsion of the Libyan ambassador to London, Omar Jelban, in retaliation for an attack on the British embassy by a pro-Gaddafi crowd in Tripoli.

Jelban has been given 24 hours to leave the country.

"I condemn the attacks on the British embassy premises in Tripoli as well as the diplomatic missions of other countries," said the foreign secretary, William Hague. "The Vienna convention requires the Gaddafi regime to protect diplomatic missions in Tripoli. By failing to do so that regime has once again breached its international responsibilities and obligations. I take the failure to protect such premises very seriously indeed."

The statement went on: "As a result, I have taken the decision to expel the Libyan ambassador. He is persona non grata pursuant to article 9 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and has 24 hours to leave the country."

According to Foreign Office sources, the building housing both the British embassy residence and its chancellery was burned down by a mob early on Sunday. (...)

The Gaddafi regime appears to have mounted a symbolic attack on empty diplomatic residences and embassies in Tripoli. There are no British diplomats in the Libyan capital.

[During most of the run-up to the release of Abdelbaset Megrahi in August 2009, Omar Jelban was chargé d'affaires in the Libyan embassy in London. There had been no ambassador since the departure of Mohammed Bel Kassem Zwai (one of the officers who, along with Gaddafi, staged the coup against King Idris in 1969, and the only one who is still prominent in the regime). Jelban was not, in my view, a significant player in the 2008/2009 political manoeuvrings. On the Libyan side the big hitters were Moussa Koussa and Abdul Ati al-Obeidi.]

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Libya foreign minister says free elections could be held

[This is the headline over a report published today on The Guardian website. Abdul Ati al-Obeidi was instrumental over the years in seeking a solution to the Lockerbie impasse and, latterly, in seeking repatriation of Abdelbaset Megrahi. From 1993 onwards (when I first became involved) he was chairman of the Libyan Government's Lockerbie committee. For a flavour of his involvement since 2007, type "Obeidi" into this blog's search facility. The article reads in part:]

Libya could hold free elections, supervised by the United Nations, within six months of the end of the conflict engulfing the country, its foreign minister has told The Guardian.

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, who took over from Moussa Koussa after his defection from Libya last month, said the regime was prepared to consider an interim national government before elections could be held. A six-month period had been discussed, he said.

Obeidi said discussions about reform included "whether the Leader [Muammar Gaddafi] should stay and in what role, and whether he should retire". Gaddafi's future has become a pivotal issue between the regime and the opposition, which has demanded his departure.

Obeidi said: "Everything will be on the table."

The minister struck a notably conciliatory tone when speaking in his Tripoli office to The Guardian, the BBC, ITN and the Washington Post. Asked about how diplomatic efforts could bridge the gulf between the Libyan government and the opposition, he said: "It is not a case of it going our way or their way, it's a case of how we can sit together with our brothers."

The international community must accept that Libya's future should be for Libyans alone to decide. "The US, Britain and France – sometimes those countries contradict themselves. They talk about democracy but when it comes to Libya, they say he [Gaddafi] should leave. It should be up to the Libyan people. This should not be dictated from any other head of state. It is against the principle of democracy." (...)

Obeidi accused western countries of standing in the way of a peace deal along the lines of the AU's proposal. "What's stopping it? Britain, France and to a certain extent the US are stopping it by continuing bombardment, arming the other side and making them more defiant."

The AU plan includes an immediate ceasefire, the delivery of humanitarian aid, the protection of foreign nationals in Libya, and dialogue between Libyan parties on the establishment of a transition period towards political reform.

Obeidi insisted that the Libyan government was ready to negotiate a ceasefire, involving all parties including Nato and monitored by international observers. "If there is a real ceasefire and these bombs stop, we could have a real dialogue among Libyans. It cannot be done with what is going on now."

The Libya government had been accused of not being serious about a ceasefire, he said. "This is not true." But, he added, a ceasefire needed a "mutual understanding and a mediator".

If Nato stopped its air strikes, Libyans would be able to resolve their differences. "We are all Libyans, their [the rebels'] blood is Libyan." His conciliatory tone towards the opposition was in marked contrast to the belligerence shown by other government officials who routinely speak of the rebels as "armed gangs" and "terrorists".

But, he said, the UK and France were impeding progress towards a ceasefire by offering military assistance to the rebels. The Anglo-French agreement to send a team of military advisers to Benghazi would "prolong the confrontation, there is no doubt about that".

"The more the west gives arms, the more they will plant hatred. We do not want to be another Iraq or Somalia. The west could advise the other side to listen to common sense and study the peace initiatives."

A ceasefire, Obeidi said, was "the only way to give peace a chance. The situation for sure is not so bright now. But I think we can have a light at the end of the tunnel."

[In an article in The Telegraph headlined In Libya and London, we’re getting into a frightful mess, Con Coughlin says:]

It is certainly hard to divine any coherent thinking in its latest decision to send a team of British military advisers to assist the Libyan rebels. After all, Mr Cameron and all the other ministers, officials and officers who sit on the NSC [National Security Council] understand as well as anyone that one of the primary objectives of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, was to persuade all the combatants to observe a ceasefire.

By sending British officers to Benghazi, the NSC risks undermining the very UN resolution that the Government, only a few weeks ago, fought so hard to secure. For these officers are not flying to Libya with the intention of arranging a ceasefire. They are going to turn the rebels into an effective fighting force that is capable of removing Gaddafi from power – which, of course, is what the Government really wants.

That is certainly how their arrival is being viewed by Gaddafi loyalists. Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, the Libyan foreign minister, yesterday said, with some justification, that Britain’s tangible display of support for the rebels would harm the prospects for peace in Libya. But, then, the NSC’s decision to undertake a marked escalation in Britain’s involvement in the Libyan conflict reflects the central paradox that lies at the heart of the Government’s approach. The UN resolution authorises military action to be undertaken to protect innocent civilians, with a view to establishing a lasting ceasefire. But from the outset, Mr Cameron, together with Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama, has insisted that the ultimate objective is to bring about the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. Consequently, the NSC is constantly having to weigh up the conflicting requirements of supporting the UN’s humanitarian mission with Downing Street’s more ambitious agenda.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Libya's 'torturer-in-chief' offered asylum in Britain in return for help toppling Gaddafi

[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.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Lockerbie bomber's release has strengthened ties with UK, says Libya

[This is the headline over a report published yesterday on The Guardian website. It reads in part:]

Libya's relations with Britain have been flourishing across the board since the controversy over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, one of Muammar Gaddafi's senior ministers said today.

Libya was "delighted" at Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's return home from a Scottish prison last August and still insists he is innocent of the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103, said Abdel-Fatah Yunis al-Obeidi, the Libyan secretary general for public security. [Note by RB: The person being referred to is not Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, who led the Libyan team that had several meetings with Scottish (and UK) government officials in the run-up to Mr Megrahi's repatriation.]

Obeidi, whose rank is that of a cabinet minister, hinted that David Cameron's comment that Megrahi's release had been a "mistake" — fuelling the domestic and international row about the circumstances of the decision — was made under US pressure. In an exclusive interview on a visit to London, Obeidi said he was certain the former intelligence agent was innocent.

"Libya is delighted by his return and has always viewed him as a political hostage and never acknowledged him as a prisoner," he said. "Libya had no connection with the Lockerbie affair. The international community was led to believe that Libya was behind the incident but history will prove the truth. I am convinced that Megrahi was innocent and was a victim of a huge international conspiracy."

Libya agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation to families of the victims because of demands from the UN, not because it admitted guilt over the worst act of terrorism in British history. It portrays Megrahi's release as a purely humanitarian issue involving a man suffering from terminal prostate cancer who supposedly had just weeks left to live.

"Megrahi is in the hands of God," said Obeidi. "He was in a Scottish prison. Those who made the three-month prognosis were British doctors. The fact that he is still alive is divine will and has nothing to do with Libya. If you have a direct line to Heaven you can check up there." (...)

"Relations are excellent and getting better every day," he said. "The problem before was the absence of trust. Now we have restored confidence and there is much greater cooperation."

Libyan officials do not normally relish discussing Lockerbie, wishing to draw a line under it after the payment of compensation, the restoration of diplomatic relations with the US and UK and a wider sense that the country has shed its pariah status as western companies, backed by their governments, queue up to do business. But Libya lobbied hard for Megrahi's release — finding a willing partner in the Labour government — and the only man convicted of the 1988 atrocity was escorted home personally by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the leader's son and presumed heir. During a recent lecture in London the younger Gaddafi responded monosyllabically to a question about Megrahi, focusing instead on the "new" Libya and opportunities it presented.

Libya does not expect any adverse effect on its booming relations with the UK. "The Libyans won't really care," predicted Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli "It's yesterday's problem. The worry now is Megrahi's state of health. There's no question of him being sent back to Scotland or of Libya having to pay any price. They will see it as Cameron being in the pocket of the Americans."

Thursday 20 August 2009

Megrahi release today to prevent 'martyrdom'

[This is the headline over the main Lockerbie report by Lucy Adams in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing will be released today on compassionate grounds but Libya has given an undertaking that there will be no "triumphalism".

The Herald understands that one compelling reason for allowing the Libyan to return to Tripoli is to avoid him dying as a "martyr" in prison and putting Scotland on the map for all the wrong reasons.

The public announcement will be made at 1pm by Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, who has been considering an application for prisoner transfer and for Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer and has less than three months to live, will fly home to his family in time for Ramadan - as The Herald stated last week.

Megrahi, who is serving 27 years in HMP Greenock for the bombing that killed 270 people in December 1988, is expected to fly to Tripoli in a private jet owned by the Libyan government.

The Foreign Office yesterday advised the State Department of the decision.

Despite concerns that Megrahi will be paraded through the streets to a hero's welcome, The Herald understands that Libyan delegates have told ministers that there would be no such triumphalism.

There is also a tacit agreement that the Libyan government will make no comment until after his return and that, even then, it will not use Megrahi as a big part of Colonel Gaddafi's September celebrations for 40 years in power.

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, the Libyan minister and former ambassador who was key to the talks to resume diplomatic relations with the UK and has been involved in the discussions about Megrahi, was in London yesterday. Obeidi is expected to fly from Luton to collect Megrahi at lunchtime.

[The same newspaper has a further article by Lucy Adams headed "Scotland caught in the middle of an international drama" on the diplomatic manoeuvrings that got us where we are today; and a thoughtful and moving opinion piece by Anne Johnstone entitled "Ability to show compassion is a gift more precious to the giver".]