Question lingers, will Saif the caged bird sing? | world | Hindustan Times
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Question lingers, will Saif the caged bird sing?

world Updated: Nov 25, 2011 00:47 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who, it now turns out, isn’t quite the moderate everyone thought him to be, has been filmed in captivity, still railing at the forces that toppled Dad’s dictatorship.

Muammar Gaddafi’s second son is particularly angry with the radical Islamist Abdul Hakim Bilhadj, who has been made leader of the Tripoli Military Council. Bilhadj, who has links with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, was arrested in Kuala Lumpur in 2004 following a tip off by the British spy agency MI6.
He was packed off to Libya, put in prison and then released by Saif in 2010 under a ‘deradicalisation’ programme. Now, Saif tells his captors, Bilhadj “will not bring any good - not to the country, not to the Libyan people.”

Rising Islamic militancy is only one spectre in war-torn Libya. The other is Saif himself - the man knows much about the circumstances under which the Gaddafi regime became an overnight ally of the West despite its terrorist connections.

Having interviewed him just before the Libyan war broke out last year, I can tell you that the man loves to talk. That should make a lot of people in the West uncomfortable. Already, the curse of his reverse Midas touch has singed a few over his donations to the London School of Economics, including our own Meghnad Desai, the economist, and Shami Chakrabarti, a civil rights campaigner.

There may be others waiting in the wing, including:
Tony Blair: The former British Prime Minister insists the rapprochement with Gaddafi was worth it because he gave up his nuclear weapons programme. But did Blair make any promises of political cooperation with Libya?

The Scottish government: Saif can tell us if there was a deal struck for the sudden release of Libyan spy Ali al-Megrahi, who was in a Scottish jail on terrorism charges for the 1989 Lockerbie air crash.
Peter Mandelson: The former minister reportedly met Saif at the Greek island villa of Nathaniel Rothschild, a scion of the British banking family, before al-Megrahi’s controversial release.

Other Western leaders: Saif was received by Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, Nicola Sarkozy of France and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Were these hard-headed leaders all taken in by Saif’s reformist public persona?