Saif al-Islam Gadaffi has been captured by forces loyal to the new government of Libya on his way through the Sahara desert to Niger where his family had bought themselves many friends with their country’s oil money. Other friends from the past will have cause to worry because Saif al-Islam is party to many, potentially embarrassing, secrets.
The question now is will Saif be tried at the International Criminal Court or will he face rough justice at home, in Libya, where there is no judiciary in place? Trial at the International Criminal Court was a possibility denied to his father, and one which Saif al-Islam would obviously prefer. I understand that communication channels had already been opened between the court and the fugitive regarding a possible negotiated surrender so there is still a chance.
However, the latter is the more likely. Nato almost certainly approved the summary execution of Muammar Gadaffi, who also knew too many secrets which would have come to light in a full and fair trial in the Hague. A ‘revolutionary court’ in Tripoli will most likely sentence Saif al-Islam to death and his secrets will be buried with him. At least he will be spared the sexual abuse and immense degradation that his father suffered at the hands of those who now seek to lead the country into a democratic future.
So what are the alleged secrets the International Criminal Court might hear? The most damaging, in all likelihood, concern former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In May last year I heard from very good sources that Blair had become an adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority, a $70 billion fund established by Muammar Gadaffi and his sons in 2006. Around the same time, Saif al-Islam informed the Daily Mail, in an interview, that Tony Blair had become a good friend of the Gaddaffi family and had visited Libya several times since he left Downing Street, staying in one of the family’s main residences.
Whilst in post, Tony Blair was one of the most enthusiastic advocatesfor Colonel Gadaffi’s rehabilitation in the eyes of the international community and became a regular visitor to the leader’s tent in Tripoli from 2004 onwards.
By 2007, Tony Blair was using his access to the Libyan leader to the advantage of multinational companies, securing an exploration agreement with the Libyan National Oil Company for British Petroleum during a visit in May that year. A deal that was worth nearly a billion dollars.
The exact nature of Blair’s relationship with the Gadaffi family and what personal advantages the former Prime Minister may have accrued as aresult are a matter for speculation. Saif al-Islam, of course, knows the facts.
In June 2010 Tony Blair denied that he was an advisor to Colonel Gadaffibut this is the man who asserted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and missiles that could reach Britain in forty minutes.[On the basis of these claims the coalition went to war in Iraq and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have lost their lives and trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money have been spent on a conflict whose only beneficiaries are the Iranians and the arms manufacturers]. For many ordinary Arabs, Tony Blair is not considered a man whose word can be trusted.
For the Gadaffi dynasty, the capture of Saif al-Islam represents the definitive end of their moment in history. Three of the brothers have been murdered and the father lynched. Apart from Saif, two brothers are still alive – Mohammad is a business man with no obvious political ambitions and Saadi, currently under house arrest in Niger, is a playboy.
Saadi’s strange career perhaps epitomizes the role of the Gadaffi clan on the international stage better than any other: an aspiring footballer, the family contributed generously to three Italian football clubs in quick succession and in return, Saadi trained with the squad. He was a notoriously mediocre player but this did not prevent Prime Minister Berlusconi encouraging the manager of Perugia to let him play in an actual match – ‘even if he isn’t very good,’ he is alleged to havesaid, ‘let him play – it is good for relations between our two countries’.
A similar lack of moral judgement – and an enormous interest in oil – seems to have informed other national leaders’ approach to the Gadaffi clan. Details of exactly what other colourful arrangements were reached as a result, however, may well be buried with Saif al-Islam under the desert sands.
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