Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Key rebels

Members of the Interim Transitional National Council in Benghazi, Libya The interim council has been running its political, military and media operations from its base in Benghazi
Amid the popular Libyan uprising against Col Muammar Gaddafi, residents of towns and cities in the areas of eastern Libya controlled by rebels have formed an interim administration.
The Interim Transitional National Council aims to provide political and military leadership, organise basic services and represent Libyans abroad.
Its leaders say the council is not a government, but aims to "steer" Libya into what they hope will be a post-Gaddafi era and then "guide the country to free elections and the establishment of a constitution for Libya".
According to its website, the body currently has 31 members representing the various regions and cities of Libya. Some have been named, while those representing Ajdabiya, Kufra, Ghat, Nalut, Misrata, Zintan and Zawiya will remain anonymous. Five seats on the council are held by women and five by young people.
Correspondents have described the council's meetings as chaotic and its leadership as contradictory, and it is not always clear who the council represents.

Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil - Chairman

Mr Abdul Jalil quit as Libya's justice minister on 21 February in protest at "the excessive use of violence against unarmed protesters" by the state, the first member of the General People's Committee to do so.
He was born in the eastern city of Bayda - the historic seat of the Sanusi dynasty and one of the first places to revolt against Col Gaddafi's rule - in 1952 and studied Law and Shariah (Islamic Law) at the University of Libya.
Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil in Beyda, Libya (4 March 2011) Mr Abdul Jalil reportedly has a $400,000 (£250,000) price on his head
After graduating, Mr Abdul Jalil worked as a lawyer in the public prosecutor's office in Bayda before becoming a judge in 1978. In 2002, he was appointed president of the Court of Appeal. His final post before being named justice minister in 2007 was president of the court in Bayda.
Mr Abdul Jalil was known during his career as a judge for ruling consistently against the government, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Such a reputation led to him being brought into the regime by Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, to cast it and himself in a more reform-minded light.
As justice minister, Mr Abdul Jalil won praise from human rights groups and Western powers for his efforts to reform Libya's criminal code.
According to a leaked US diplomatic cable from January 2010, he was well regarded by staff at the Libyan justice ministry and several judges, who considered him fair, while US ambassador Gene Cretz described a meeting with him as "positive and encouraging".

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I have never seen an Arab minister of justice who will publicly criticise the most powerful security agencies in the country”
Heba Morayef Human Rights Watch
"While Abdul Jalil has given the green light to his staff to work with us, he noted that many Libyans are still 'concerned' about the [US government's] support for Israel, and that terrorism stems from the perception that Europe and the US are 'against' Muslims," Mr Cretz wrote.
The cable also said Human Rights Watch believed Mr Abdul Jalil's drive to change the system was driven more by his conservative point of view rather than a reformist agenda.
But in an unprecedented move in January 2010, he publicly defied Col Gaddafi in a televised speech to the annual General People's Congress by declaring that he intended to resign due to his "inability to overcome the difficulties facing the judicial sector".
He cited the continued detention of 300 political prisoners despite court rulings acquitting them, and the release of prisoners sentenced to death without the families of their victims being informed.
"It's as if he just wouldn't lie," Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch told the Wall Street Journal. "I have never seen an Arab minister of justice who will publicly criticise the most powerful security agencies in the country."
But Mr Abdul Jalil's dramatic resignation was rejected by the Libyan leader. According to another US diplomatic cable, some observers believed that Col Gaddafi, who publicly rebuked Mr Abdul Jalil for making the remarks at the GPC, preferred to fire him on his own terms, while others said Saif al-Islam Gaddafi would not let him step down.
People in eastern Libya, however, reportedly welcomed the comments.
When the protests first began in Benghazi in mid-February, the government sent Mr Abdul Jalil to deal with them. After witnessing the shooting and detention of peaceful demonstrators, he resigned as minister. Within days, he had become the chairman of the rebel transitional national council.
"We are the same as people in other countries, and are looking for the same things," Mr Jalil said. "We want a democratic government, a fair constitution, and we don't want to be isolated from the world anymore."
On 9 March, Libyan state television reported that Col Gaddafi's government had offered a $400,000 (£250,000) bounty for his capture.

Abdul Hafez Ghoga - Vice-chairman, spokesman

Mr Ghoga is a Benghazi-based human rights lawyer and community organiser.
Abdul Hafez Ghoga, Benghazi, Libya (2 March 2011) Mr Ghoga was accused by Col Gaddafi's son of betraying his country
The former president of the Libyan Bar Association was arrested on 19 February, shortly after the anti-government protests began, but was released a few days later.
He later rose to prominence after declaring himself the spokesman of an interim council, rivalling the one created by Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
Mr Ghoga was subsequently named vice-chairman and spokesman of the Interim Transitional National Council at the beginning of March.
Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, has portrayed Mr Ghoga as a turncoat. He told al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper: "Two weeks ago, he was sitting in Col Gaddafi's tent cheering and applauding, and he even appeared on al-Jazeera defending Libya and the regime. However, now he is talking about toppling the regime?"

Omar al-Hariri - military affairs

Mr Hariri is one of the officers who took part in the military coup that brought Col Gaddafi to power in 1969. The former general was later jailed after they fell out.

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Right now I am telling them freedom is costly, and nothing is more precious than Libyans' blood”
Omar al-Hariri
Col Lamine Abdul Wahhab, a member of the rebel military council for the Benghazi area, said he believed the appointment of Mr Hariri would improve the rebel armed forces' co-ordination. "He is a well-known personality and very popular as he tried to overthrow Gaddafi," he told the Reuters news agency.
Mr Hariri is a member of the Farjan tribe, which is based in western Libya and has a strong presence in and around Col Gaddafi's stronghold of Sirte. The Wall Street Journal said his appointment might also be aimed at wooing influential tribes.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail newspaper on 2 March, Mr Hariri, 67, recounted how he had taught Col Gaddafi to drive a car when they were both young army officers. The two men later conspired to topple King Idris in 1969.
Mr Hariri said he regretted that the officers did not then have a clear plan for the new Libya and that he did not want to "make the same mistakes".
"This time, the people will be our safeguards," he said. "They will elect a new president and he will serve for a limited time. He could be removed if he does not serve the people. And, of course, we will need a parliament, and a multi-party system."
In 1975, while serving as secretary general of the revolutionary cabinet, Mr Hariri began to organise a plot to overthrow Col Gaddafi with his fellow officers.
The plot was discovered and about 300 men were arrested, he said. Four died under interrogation and 21 were sentenced to death, including Mr Hariri.
Libyan rebels take positions in Ras Lanuf on 9 March 2011.
He spent the next 15 years in prison awaiting execution, four and a half of them in solitary confinement.
Then in 1990, Col Gaddafi unexpectedly commuted Mr Hariri's death sentence and he was placed under house arrest in the eastern city of Tobruk. The security forces watched him closely until the uprising began.
Mr Hariri, who is feted as a hero by the rebel fighters when he appears in public, said the Interim Transitional National Council's role was to "counsel" the young people who initiated the uprising.
"Right now I am telling them freedom is costly, and nothing is more precious than Libyans' blood," he explained.
He wants the international community to create a no-fly zone over Libya and possibly even air strikes on military targets. He believes the regime will eventually collapse, but that Col Gaddafi will not go quietly.

Mahmoud Jibril - foreign affairs

Before the uprising, Mr Jibril was involved in a project called "Libyan Vision" with other intellectuals, which sought to establish a democratic state. He is also head of the rebel council's crisis committee, which aims to streamline decision making.
Ali Issawi (R) and Mahmoud Jibril (C) with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris (10 March 2011) Mr Sarkozy recognised the council as Libya's leaders after meeting Mr Jibril (C)and Mr Issawi
Born in 1952, Mr Jibril has both a master's degree in political science and a PhD in strategic planning and decision-making from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
After completing his doctorate in 1984, he taught strategic planning and decision-making at the university for several years. He also wrote several books and ran leadership training programmes in several Arab states.
He later became the head of the Libyan National Planning Council. Then in 2009, he was appointed chairman of the National Economic Development Board (NEDB), which was founded in the mid-2000s to encourage investment and economic growth in Libya. He reported directly to the prime minister.
A leaked US diplomatic cable from November 2009 written by the US ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, described Mr Jibril as "a serious interlocutor who 'gets' the US perspective".
"He is also not shy about sharing his views of US foreign policy, for example, opining that the US spoiled a golden opportunity to capitalise on its 'soft power' (McDonald's, etc) after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 by putting 'boots on the ground' in the Middle East," Mr Cretz wrote.
An earlier US diplomatic cable described Mr Jibril as "reform-minded".

Ali Issawi - foreign affairs

Mr Issawi resigned as Libyan ambassador to India on 21 February in protest at the government's "use of violence against its citizens" and deployment of "foreign mercenaries against Libyans."
Defecting Libyan soldiers on the outskirts of Brega, 4 March 2011
Born in Benghazi in 1966, Mr Issawi has a PhD in privatisation from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania. In 2005, he became director general of the Ownership Expansion Programme, a Libyan government fund encouraging privatisation, and founded the Centre for Export Development in 2006.
The next year he became Libya's minister of economy, trade and investment. He was the youngest person to have occupied the post.
Following a cabinet reshuffle in March 2009, Mr Issawi was left without a post. A leaked US diplomatic cable said the French embassy in Tripoli believed the move was "related to accusations of corruption".
However, the cable also noted: "Issawi twice attempted to resign last year over disagreements with [Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali] al-Mahmoudi but was convinced to stay." Sources also said Mr Essawi was also a member of a "shadow" committee set up in 2008 by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, which had been "charged with hammering out specifics" of a government reform programme, the cable added.

Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi - political prisoners

The dissident was Libya's longest-serving "prisoner of conscience".
He was accused of conspiracy in an attempted coup against Col Gaddafi in 1970 and spent 31 years in prison, many of them in solitary confinement. He was released in August 2001, on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary the revolution.
Mr Zubair is the lone descendant of Libya's last king, Idriss al-Sanusi, among the rebel leadership.

Fathi Mohammed Baja - Benghazi

Mr Baja is a US-educated political science professor at the University of Benghazi and a member of Benghazi's city council.

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This revolution is going towards the creation of modern Libya, freedom and democracy”
Fathi Mohammed Baja
He was once accused by Libya's state security apparatus of writing articles critical of the government.
The 58-year-old told Time magazine on 22 February: "We thought Gaddafi's revolution was for freedom and human rights. But the four decades since then has been total chaos. It is not even a state. It is a brutal dictatorship."
He said he was certain that the next generation in Libya would see true democracy. "Gaddafi has stolen people's money, Libya's wealth," he added.
Mr Baja helped draft a manifesto for the revolution, which had two major principles: national unity and democracy.
"It is for the unity of all Libya - that is the [first] thing. The second is that this revolution is going towards the creation of modern Libya, freedom and democracy based on a pluralistic society, based on human rights, participation of all parts of Libya in creating their government and their institutions," he explained.

Fathi Tirbil Salwa - young people

Mr Tirbil played a significant part in sparking the uprising.
The young lawyer and activist helped organise a peaceful demonstration in Benghazi on 15 February by the families of some of the 1,200 inmates of the notorious Abu Salim prison who were massacred by Libyan security forces in 1996 in retaliation for a revolt in the eastern city.
The protesters were calling for human rights, but the local Revolutionary Committee ordered that Mr Tirbil be arrested.
When local people gathered outside the police station where Mr Tirbil was being held to demand his release, officers reportedly opened fire on them.
Over the next few days, the anti-government protests in Benghazi grew more widespread and spread to several other eastern cities, before eventually reaching Tripoli.

Salwa al-Dighaili - women

A Benghazi-based lawyer, who is from a prominent family in eastern Libya. Her uncle was imprisoned for opposition activities.
Before the uprising, Ms Dighaili played an active role in the Benghazi Bar Association. Its members campaigned for legal reforms, an end to corruption. They also demanded the replacement of the head of the association, a Gaddafi loyalist. He was dismissed a week before the protests began following a visit to the city by the Libyan leader.
"We might have been satisfied with this in the past, but after Tunisia and Egypt, we knew we could ask for more," Ms Dighaili told al-Masry al-Youm. "And once they started firing on protesters, we knew there was no going back."
Benghazi's lawyers, including Ms Dighaili and Fathi Tirbil, had a prominent role in the early anti-government protests and helped set up the council.

Other members of the council

Abdul Ilah Moussa al-Meyhoub - Quba
A law professor who wrote a scathing critique of Col Gaddafi's Green Book, in which the Libyan leader set out his political and social theories, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ahmed Abd Rabuh al-Abar - Benghazi
A businessman whose family has historic ties to the al-Sanusi dynasty.
Uthman Suleiman al-Megrahi - Batnan
Ashour Hamid Bu Rashid - Derna 

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