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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Qaddafi's Long Arm

One of least reported aspects of Mummar Qaddafi's struggle to continue his 42 year totalitarian rule has been the way he has used Libyan security personnel to extend his dictatorship to Libyans even when they are out of the country. In many cases this has been done through the mis-use of embassy staff to harass and intimidate Libyan students studying aboard and other Libyans who support the freedom fighters. In many countries, the ambassador and staff have come over to side of revolution and the Transitional National Council but in others they are still loyal to Qaddafi. Many of those have been involved in what is regarded in diplomatic terms "inappropriate behavior," been named "persona non gratis" and thrown out of the country.

Here is a round-up of news from the worlds media about this front in the Libyan freedom fight.

Libyan Embassy in Jordan harasses student supports of freedom fighters.

In Jordan this July, the Libyan embassy cut off grant and health insurance to students in "retaliation" for their support of wounded freedom fighters from Benghazi. When they arrived at Jordan's Marka Military Airport on board a Royal Air Force transport, a number of students staged a symbolic sit-in and thanked the Jordanian king and government and people for receiving the wounded. "Libya and unity .. not Eastern nor Western," was their slogan.

In response, Fri Almoudi from the Libyan embassy told the student supervisor to cut off the aid to the students. The students take the position that "Grant funds and health insurance funds are from the Libyan people and not from the funds of Gaddafi and the student supervisor."

The students said that they would not be intimidated by the threats from regime officials and said "we stand with our people struggling to defend their freedom and dignity." This cut off of promised aid is especially difficult for the students at this time because the situation in Libya makes it hard for their families to remit funds to them. There are between 300-400 Libyan students in various universities in Jordan and they are demanding that the Jordanian government intervene to stop "the harm inflicted upon them Qaddafi and his gang in Jordan."

The Libyan embassy in Jordan has divided loyalties because Ambassador Mohamed Barghathi and other dissidents have joined the freedom fighters, with Barghathi becoming the representative of the Transitional National Council in Amman, but the embassy staff is still loyal to Qaddafi.

Libyan student president in Italy arrested for intimidating other students.

On June 9 the Italian police arrested the president of the Libyan Students' League in Italy. The pro-Qaddafi president, Ahusain Nuri, 41, has lived in Italy for ten years. He was arrested in Perugia. Investigators said the Nuri was he head of an organization responsible for violence and threats against other Libyan students who supported the TNC. The Libyan Students' League is thought to have the backing of senior members of the Qaddafi regime.

The investigation and arrest were carried out by the Digos anti-terrorism police. The chief of police in Perugia, Sandro Federico called student harassment a problem of national security.

Five Libyan diplomats expelled from Canada

In May, five Libyan diplomats working at the Libyan Embassy in Ottawa were expelled for activities "considered inappropriate and inconsistent with normal diplomatic functions," according to a statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman with Foreign Affairs said she could not comment on state-to-state communications and refused to detail the reasons the diplomats were being expelled.

However in March, the CBC reported some Libyan students in Canada who had spoken out against the Qaddafi regime received threatening phone calls believed to have come from embassy staff.

Earlier in May, pro- and anti-Gadhafi protesters faced off in downtown Ottawa only two blocks from Parliament Hill and the anti-Gadhafi side outnumbered the pro-Gadhafi, anti-NATO side of fewer than 20 people by about three to one.

Men, women and children chanted songs and carried Libyan rebel flags and posters calling Qaddafi a war criminal. The larger group drowned out the chants from the pro-Qaddafi side, which carried the green flags that have symbolized Libya in the era and two large pictures of the leader himself. One RCMP officer was injured in a skirmish when the demonstrations first started.

Police did their best to keep both sides apart, but one RCMP officer was hurt during a skirmish when the demonstration first got under way.

Finally on august 9, Canada ordered all remaining Libyan diplomats to leave the country within five days. Forign Affars Minister John Baird said the Libyan diplomats had become "persona non grata."

France also sent 14 Libyan diplomats home in May, accusing them of "activities incompatible with the relevant UN resolutions . . . and contrary to the protection of Libyan civilians." "Many of these people were using their status as diplomats as a cover," the diplomat said.

Britain also expelled several Libyan diplomats for behavior that had become "unacceptable."

While the activities of the Qaddafi regime has been mostly limited to various forms of harassment and intimidated while the Libyan opposition is out of the country, many will be in grave danger if they are forced to return to Libya while Qaddafi is still in power.

Libyan student murdered by Qaddafi marksman after returning from Australian.

A Libyan student studying in Perth, Australia was murdered by soldiers loyal to Mummar Qaddafi's regime after returning home to Libya. Qmar Swyeb, 27, was an English language student at the University of West Australia and he return to Libya because he was worried about his family. His murder raises grave concerns among the several hundred Libyan students in WA about what may happen to them once there visas run out and they are forced to return home.

An investigation by The Weekend West has uncovered a small contingent of students loyal to Qaddafi that were spies for the regime in Perth and they have been taking names and photographs of rebel sympathizers to add to the Libyan secret police blacklist. In light of these problems. the Greens plan to move in the Senate to have the Libyan student visas extended until the crisis in the war torn country is resolved.
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 8:12 AM PT: If you know of other examples of Qaddafi's harassment and worst of opposition supporters outside of Libya, please send me the details and I will include them here. @clayclai on twitter or clayclai@gmail.com

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