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But all this made no impression on Abdel-Jalil, who upheld the decision to have the six innocent victims shot by firing squad in 2004. The fact the Palestinian doctor was probably standing in front of him with a damaged eye and a crippled hand, souvenirs of Gaddafi’s dungeons, apparently caused him no pangs of conscience. With Seif al-Gaddafi’s admission, however, it is obvious that Libyans like Abdel-Jalil knew of the nurses’ innocence all along.
Like with the Lockerbie bomber, the nurses’ release was linked to business deals. Only days after his first wife escorted the nurses back to Bulgaria, French President Nicolas Sarkozy shamefully hastened to Libya to arrange the sale of a nuclear reactor and weapons to Gaddafi. Both scandalous incidents were simply cases of dollars for dishonor.
But America is not the only country interested in a wanted fugitive in Libya. The Sudan Tribune, citing a local newspaper, reports that Sudan’s intelligence chief visited Libya last week to speak with the NTC. Sudan is apparently interested in Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the resistance groups in Darfur fighting the central government’s genocide there. Ibrahim has been “confined” at a Libyan military base since 2009.
Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who, like Gaddafi, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), has been supporting the NTC in the Libyan conflict and probably views Ibrahim’s extradition as a reward for that support. It will now be interesting to see whether the JEM leader will be handed over to the Sudanese after the NTC had refused to do so with al-Megrahi.
The reasons behind the NTC’s initial announcement not to grant the American senators’ request and extradite the Lockerbie bomber may concern Libyan internal politics. The rebel council may have wanted to come to an agreement with al-Megrahi’s tribe, Gaddafi’s strongest ally in the conflict. Or it may have been worried about a violent reaction from the anti-Western Islamists in its ranks.
It is also unknown whether anyone in the rebel leadership, which most likely contains unsavoury types and thugs like al-Megrahi, is a personal friend of the Lockerbie bomber and may wish to protect him. Moreover, al-Megrahi may have information he could reveal to the Americans about Libya’s new leaders they would not want anyone to know.
Whatever the reason, as the danger from Gaddafi recedes, America’s frustrations with a NTC under Abdel-Jalil will probably increase. The NTC’s confidence in initially turning down the American request probably rests on its knowledge that Libya contains the largest oil reserves in Africa, and foreign governments are now trying to curry its favour to make exploration deals and sign rebuilding contracts. Strikingly similar behavior to the old regime the NTC is replacing.
As for Abdel-Jalil, the NTC’s refusal to extradite al-Megrahi indicates he still possesses the same lack of a sense of justice and personal qualities he demonstrated in the Bulgarian nurses’ case. Willingness to address America’s concerns and gratefulness for American assistance in defeating Gaddafi seem to have evaporated like water in the desert, even before the guns have gone silent. This does not bode well for Libya’s future and for American relations with its new government.
As for al-Megrahi, the Obama administration says it is still the NTC’s decision whether to extradite the mass murderer, but it would like the rebel council to decide as soon as possible.
“We asked the (NTC) to, as soon as it can, take a hard look at what it thinks ought to happen with Mr. Megrahi and it has committed to that,” said a State Department spokeswoman.
The NTC, softening its line, said on Monday the Lockerbie Bomber’s fate will be left up to Libya’s new government after elections are held. It called its initial, hard-line position “…a misinterpretation of a statement by Mr. Alagi.” With the decision’s postponement until then, it is obvious the NTC is playing for time, hoping al-Megrahi will die, thus solving an embarrassing diplomatic problem.
But while this may bring closure for Libya’s new government, for many of al-Megrahi’s victims’ families, both in America and elsewhere, the open wounds of his evil deed will always remain.
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