Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Gadhafi's Desert Grave
By Mary Beth Sheridan, Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 1:40 PM
TRIPOLI — Former Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi was secretly buried in a desert grave on Tuesday, officials said, ending a four-day spectacle in which his bloody body was displayed to a public largely overjoyed about his ignominious end after decades of repressive rule.
Like other leaders toppled in the Arab Spring uprisings, Gaddafi was despised as a corrupt authoritarian ruler. But he was viewed here as more cruel and capricious than the presidents of Egypt or Tunisia, a man who would suddenly nationalize companies or hang dissident students — and force their classmates to watch.
That explains why most Libyans appear to have been unfazed by cellphone videos showing a blood-spattered Gaddafi punched, kicked and possibly even sodomized by revolutionaries before he died in captivity. Human rights groups have said the brutality surrounding Gaddafi’s death marked a troubling beginning for the new democracy emerging from an eight-month, U.S.-backed war. But many Libyans saw it as a fitting end for a tyrant.
“Have you seen the mass graves they discovered? Did you know we had more than 50,000 people die during this revolution?” asked Muhammad al-Jady, 53, an engineer walking near Tripoli’s downtown Martyrs Square, citing a widely quoted estimate.
Jady recounted a litany of abuses his family suffered under the Gaddafi regime. The government seized four of his father’s villas after passing a law banning ownership of more than one home. Then in 1984, Jady was jailed for six months without explanation upon returning from college in Oregon, he said.
“We are still hurting,” he said. “I am still feeling that six months of my life. Yes, they should kill him.”
Under Gaddafi, Libyans suffered some of the strictest curbs on freedom of expression in the Middle East. Munir Abdusalem Kridig, 25, said his brother was shot by security forces in June simply for complaining about Gaddafi as he sat in his car in a long line at a gas station. “They heard him and opened fire,” he said.
“Now that Gaddafi’s buried, I don’t think even Satan would accept him,” the deejay said, clutching a red, green and black revolt.
Thousands of Libyans lined up starting Friday to gaze with contempt or wonder at Gaddafi’s decomposing body, which had been laid out on a bloody mattress in a refrigerated meat locker in Misurata. The weak central government seemed powerless to wrest the body from the city’s fiercelyanti-Gaddafi fighters, who had captured him on Thursday.
Suliman Fortia, the representative of the city of Misurata on the national governing council, said in a telephone interview that Gaddafi’s body was put in an unmarked grave “somewhere in the desert” at dawn Tuesday. News services reported that a Muslim cleric recited prayers over the body before it was turned over for burial.
Libyan officials have said they wanted a secret site to prevent his tomb being desecrated or turned into a pilgrimage site. Gaddafi was buried with his son Mutassim and former defense minister Abu Bakr Yunis Jabir, officials said.
Human rights groups have called for an investigation into whether Gaddafi was executed by fighters who had found him alive. There is little enthusiasm here for such a probe, although the interim government has promised to request one.
In a fresh sign of how Gaddafi was abused after his capture, a new video obtained by Global Post appears to show a man trying to shove a knife between the former leader’s buttocks as revolutionaries lead him from his hiding place in a drainage pipe.
Libya’s interim government has said Gaddafi was killed when his supporters opened fire on revolutionaries escorting the wounded former leader to a hospital. There has been no evidence of such a firefight, however.
Like citizens of Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans blamed their authoritarian leader for high unemployment and corruption. Libyans appeared especially stung because their country is rich in oil. But little of that money trickled down.
Worst of all was the constant uncertainty of life under Gaddafi, they said. “I never felt safe,” said Salem Ghaith, 50. As a young man, he feared being yanked out of school and press-ganged to fight abroad, he said. As a college student, he was forced to watch several classmates hanged for political activity.
When he became the principal of a prestigious English-language school, he had to turn over students’ tuition payments to government officials. “They take the money, and they buy cars, furniture, farms,” he said.
Asked whether he was concerned about the way in which Gaddafi was manhandled after his capture, he said: “I don’t think so. Because what he did to people was worse.”
NTC backs down from insistence Gaddafi died in crossfire and pledges justice for anyone proven to have fired lethal shot
The killing of Gaddafi after his capture in Sirte, which was recorded on mobile phone cameras, has attracted international criticism. Photograph: Rick Gershon/Getty Images
Libya's interim government says it will prosecute anyone found responsible for the death of Muammar Gaddafi after his capture, in a retreat from its earlier insistence that the dictator had been killed by crossfire.
The change in position comes after a week of sustained criticism of the Libyan leader's captors, who used their camera phones to chronicle his death. The footage, including images of a wounded Gaddafi being sodomised with what looked like a bayonet, caused widespread revulsion outside the country.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, deputy chief of the National Transitional Council, said it would try to bring to justice anyone proven to have fired the shot to the head that killed Gaddafi.
"With regards to Gaddafi, we do not wait for anybody to tell us," he told the al-Arabiya satellite channel. "We had already launched an investigation. We have issued a code of ethics in handling of prisoners of war. I am sure that was an individual act and not an act of revolutionaries or the national army. Whoever is responsible for that [Gaddafi's killing] will be judged and given a fair trial."
Attempts to launch an investigation are unlikely to be welcomed in Misrata, where the rebels who captured Gaddafi in his home town of Sirte are based. Asked this week about the questions surrounding his death by people outside Libya, Misrata's military chief, Ibrahim Beit al-Mal, said: "Why are they even asking this question? He was caught and he was killed. Would he have given us the same? Of course."
Talk of an inquest was being seen by Misrata officials as an attempt by the Benghazi-dominated NTC to claim prominence in post-Gaddafi affairs.
"Everybody knows who caught him and who fought the most during the past nine months," an official said. "It was us. It was no one else."
The identity of the man who allegedly pulled his 9mm pistol from his waistband and shot the wounded dictator in the left temple around 20 minutes after his capture is widely known in Misrata, as is the unit he belonged to, the Katiba Ghoran.
"They won't come near us," said the rebel who pulled Gaddafi from a drain last Thursday. "They won't dare. Gaddafi was saying: 'What's this, what's this?' After nine months of blood, he was saying: 'What's this?'. What does he expect?"
There is little sympathy on the streets of Misrata for Gaddafi's violent end, despite the troubling images and his rotting body being publicly displayed for the next four days.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi son and former heir apparent Saif al-Islam is thought to be in southern Libya approaching the Niger border, where Nigerien officials believe he is planning to join his brother Saadi and the former regime's spy chief Abdullah Senussi in exile.
The NTC maintains that Saif al-Islam is interested in handing himself in to the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant against him and Senussi. The court in The Hague says it has had no contact from Libya.
The United Nations on Thursday said it would terminatethe Nato mandate enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya at the end of October, formally ending an eight-month blockade of the country's skies and military operations on the ground. The NTC had earlier asked for operations to continue until the end of the year.
"This marks a really important milestone in the transition in Libya," Britain's ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, said. "It marks the way from the military phase towards the formation of an inclusive government, the full participation of all sectors of society, and for the Libyan people to choose their own future."
The security council said it looked forward "to the swift establishment of an inclusive, representative transitional government of Libya" committed to democracy, good governance, rule of law, national reconciliation and respect for human rights.
It strongly urged Libyan authorities "to refrain from reprisals", to take measures to prevent others from carrying out reprisals, and to protect the population, "including foreign nationals and African migrants".