Seif al-Islam's links to Britain under scrutiny after arrest

Seif al-Islam's links to Britain under scrutiny after arrest

28th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Seif al-Islam's links to Britain came in for fresh scrutiny last week Monday after his arrest, as analysts warned a trial might reveal more embarrassing details about his dealings with the British establishment.

The 39-year-old son of the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding Britain's relationship with Libya.

An urbane figure educated at the London School of Economics (LSE), he became the public face of the regime in Britain and formed links with the then Labour government, including ex-premier Tony Blair, as Libya came in from the cold.

But leading politicians and the LSE scrambled to distance themselves from Seif as his talk of ushering in democracy vanished and he stood by his father when his regime unsuccessfully fought a rebellion backed by NATO air strikes.

The embarrassment has been greatest for the LSE, who admitted that Seif al-Islam's International Charity and Development Foundation pledged £1.5 million (1.7 million euros, $2.3 million) to the institution over five years.

The LSE's director Howard Davies, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, resigned over the donation and the school launched a probe into claims that Seif al-Islam plagiarised his thesis for a PhD it awarded him in 2008.

During his time in London, he reportedly enjoyed a playboy lifestyle, living in a multi-million-pound house in the upmarket district of Hampstead.

Questions have also been raised about Seif al-Islam's role in talks to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, freed by the Scottish government in 2009 on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The arrest of Seif in southern Libya on Sunday has sparked speculation in Britain on the prospects of new revelations at his trial about the cosy relationship between Tripoli and London.

Shashank Joshi, from defence think-tank RUSI, said that Seif was likely to know a lot about the "process of rapprochement."

"He may know about the diplomatic side, about the specific quid pro quos that were indicated between the UK and Libya," he said.

But he thought it unlikely any judge would give Seif the chance to speak, to stop him using the court "as a mouthpiece or megaphone."

The Sunday Times newspaper reported at the weekend that a party donor for the Labour party -- now in opposition -- had discussions with Seif al-Islam aimed at securing the controversial donation to the LSE.

The donor, Imran Khand, was alleged to have travelled to Tripoli twice to meet Seif al-Islam in 2008 and 2009 when Labour was in power.

Labour finance spokesman Ed Balls on Sunday defended his party's actions when in government.

He said that Blair, former Labour premier Gordon Brown and intelligence experts thought at the time that talks with the Libyan regime about disarmament were a "positive step forward."

"They went in to it with open eyes and the possibility of progress," Balls told Sky News television.

"Now clearly, Colonel Kadhafi ended up breaking agreements, not making progress, and I don't think a Labour government or any government should have anything to fear from open disclosure."

Seif al-Islam has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, but the interim authority in Tripoli has insisted he be tried in Libya.

Professor Rosemary Hollis, a Middle East expert at London's City University, said a trial could provide more embarrassing details about Seif al-Islam's relationship with Britain.

"It's clear that a number of people were in touch with him personally because of the connections they formed with him prior to the revolution," she told AFP.

"I am not expecting any major revelations... there's more potential for embarrassment."



AFP/ Sam Reeves




0 Comments To This Article