Two years ago, Moussa Koussa, the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, did something interesting. He drove into Tunisia, boarded a private jet and flew to Farnborough Airfield in England. Libyan sources insisted that he had left the country on a diplomatic mission but the British authorities claimed that he was disenchanted with his employers and considering his resignation.
Few Britons would have known who he was the day before but now they knew him as a figure of tremendous evil. Politicians and commentators suggested that his defection was similar to that of Rudolf Hess. He was, Libyan rebels told us, with apparent justice, a crook whose hands were stained with the blood of his countrymen. British sources also alleged that he had masterminded the Lockerbie bombings, and had been involved in the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. It seemed that we had a man who was both big and bad. Boris Johnson summed up the feelings of the moment by going on Question Time and saying that if there was the slightest evidence against him, he should be arrested.
Koussa was interviewed by the intelligence services, and by Scottish investigators of the Pan Am bombing. Then the European Union, on the urgings of the British, lifted its travel and economic sanctions against the man and he promptly boarded a plane and flew to Qatar. There was a kind of dazed silence. Relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing complained bitterly but the press, having informed us that he was a murderer and probable terrorist, seemed to lose their interest in him. The Telegraph did track him down to a hotel in Doha, and found him swanning about under the protection of the Qataris; eating at expensive Italian restaurants and generally enjoying life.
We have heard almost nothing of the fellow since. The last that I heard, he was settling in Jordan.
Why Moussa Koussa was allowed in and out remains mysterious. He must have offered the government or its agencies something valuable. The Sunday Express alleged, while he was still in Britain, that he had a close working relationship with MI6, while the Independent, noting the British and Libyan collaboration over “rendition” policies, suggested that he “held a ‘smoking gun’”. Neither they nor other papers pursued these accusations.
It seems very grubby that Koussa’s Libyan victims have been denied justice, especially if he won immunity through his work in some of the grubbiest episodes of the “War on Terror”. It seems very grubby that victims of Lockerbie were led to believe that he could answer the questions that have dogged them for almost a quarter of a century, only to see him disappear and leave more questions in his wake. Over eighteen months after the fall of Gadaffi, and with no evidence of Libyan guilt having emerged, the perpetrators of the bombings remain shrouded in mystery. If they could be found elsewhere, a chance to eliminate suspects has been thrown away. If they did come from the Maghreb it is quite possible that the state discarded not merely a chance to prove this to us but a chance to prosecute one of them. For what?
Who knows. What vexes me is not simply the fact that our government is engaged in such suspicious and discomfiting affairs but that the journalists whose task it is to explain such events have shown no interest in them. If, as they informed us, there were grounds on which to compare the man to Rudolf Hess it is as if Churchill, Eden and so on had let the one-time Deputy Führer sail off to Brazil, yet few of them complained and none of them seem to have made an effort to discover why they did it. How often, one has to ask, do they fail to make such efforts? As on other occasions, we are left with memory, and curiosity, and questions.