By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 21 September:
For a man who served as the right-hand man of Muammar Qaddafi, and who is accused of . . .[restrict]some of the most infamous crimes in Libya’s living memory, surprisingly little is known about Abdullah Senussi.
Hailing from the Megerha tribe in southern Libya, allies of Qaddafi’s Qaddafa tribe, Senussi was closely involved in the 1969 coup that brought the late dictator to power.
Senussi was Qaddafi’s brother-in-law, and served in some of the highest positions in the regime over a period of 42 years. He was the Qaddafi’s intelligence chief up until and throughout last year’s uprising, a post he held until the regime collapsed.
Senussi fled the capital on the day revolutionaries entered Tripoli on 21 August 2011 and made his way to south of the country before staying in different cities to determine his escape route.
He was arrested in Mauritania in March of this year, having attempted to enter the country from Morocco disguised as a Tuareg chieftain and carrying a fake passport, before being extradited to Libya on 5 September.
Huge news, it was for many, who thought this day would never come as with Senussi lay all the secrets of the former regime. No doubt, he is the only man who can reveal the past of many people considered to be very influential in today’s world.
“Senussi is still in a state of shock and keeps alternating between shock & anger but it’s only a matter of time till he comes to grip with what has happened to him,” says an informed source who was present during his initial interrogation.
Senussi, also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and France, will be tried in Libya along with the son of the former dictator, Saif Al-Islam. He is the black book of Qaddafi’s regime. He can start a storm by spilling beans on the perpetrators of numerous terrorists attacks around the globe.
The plane carrying Senussi landed on the afternoon of 5 September at Tripoli’s Metiga Airbase, from where he was put into a helicopter and transferred straight to the headquarters of the brigade tasked with guarding him, for now, in southern Tripoli.
The brigade was informed in advance to prepare for a special prisoner but it was only two days before when they were asked to increase the security around the ‘special cell’ to avoid any ‘inconvenience’. The reasons being obvious – and perhaps including special interests by people who would like Senussi to keep mum – a security plan was put in place.
“The nature of the case was very sensitive and we didn’t leak any information until he landed in Tripoli. All the leak came from the Mauritanian officials,” says my source.
He also reveals the reason behind the secrecy and tough security: “Some people were very uncomfortable with the deal as it would affect them directly. By the grace of God, everything went OK and quite a few of those concerned people flew out of country, the very next day. It is obvious that they were afraid of Senussi revealing their ties with the old regime.”
It is known that a deal was done between the Mauritanian and Libyan governments to ensure that Senussi was extradited to Libya, although a senior advisor to Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur insists that no direct financial transaction was made, but that Libya has agreed to “increase investments” in Mauritania going forwards.
My source concurs that assurances of future investment were made, but that there was a financial price tag, although not a significant one:
“Senussi, in his days, made an agreement with the neighbouring countries to extradite the wanted people and we used the same agreement to seek his extradition. As far as the price tag is concerned, it wasn’t too much, given his crimes, nothing can be too much.”
Upon learning of Senussi’s extradition, the most interesting reaction was that of the former prime minister of the regime, Baghdadi Mahmoudi, who told the source, “now you don’t even need us, you managed to get him and he is the one with the answers you seek.”
Asked if Senussi has the same level of facilities provided to Mahmoudi, I was told that “Senussi is the most important of all and is being treated as such. His cell is special and has no outside access”.
Ironically the same Senussi, who had forbidden the political prisoners in Abu Salim to give the call to prayer, told the guards when he arrived at the facility that he prays and asked for the direction to Qibla.
Senussi also claimed that the allegations of different crimes are nothing but mass media lies and maintained his innocence in front of the officials and guards.
Officials included people that were tortured in the presence of Senussi himself and couldn’t resist reminding him.
“Senussi tried to speak of his innocence and was instantly reminded by people in the room that were tortured in front of him. At one stage he said to one of the officials, “remember I saved your life”, to which the official replied, “I was saved by God and you have enough blood on your hands that you should think about”.
To date, Senussi has not cooperated much with the investigations, other than the few cases where he was confronted by the witnesses themselves.
“He refused to accept responsibility for any of the crimes he committed,but he will be properly investigated by the prosecution”, my source says.
It is claimed, however, that he will start cooperating once he comes of the initial shock of the extradition and, he has shown some sporadic signs of cooperation. He accepted his actions in couple of incidents after initially denying them but as soon as he saw the eye-witnesses himself and the documents signed by him, he started talking.
The incidents in questions related to the Abu Salim massacre.
The level of Senussi’s involvement in the previous regime is not hidden from anyone and his statements are bound to dazzle many.
It is not only some Libyan individuals who want Senussi to keep silent, but also several foreign countries.
It will be interesting to see how much pressure these groups seek to apply to the National Congress, the new government and the prosecutor’s office in this regard, and how these bodies respond in turn.
Needless to say, the stakes on both sides are very high.
Umar Khan can be found on Twitter @umarnkhan [/restrict]