Saif al-Islam`s links to Britain under scrutiny

Saif al-Islam has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding Britain`s relationship with Libya.

London: Saif al-Islam`s links to Britain came in for fresh scrutiny on Monday after his arrest, as analysts warned a trial might reveal more embarrassing details about his dealings with the British establishment.

The 39-year-old son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding Britain`s relationship with Libya.

An urbane figure educated at the London School of Economics (LSE), he became the public face of the regime in Britain and formed links with the then Labour government, including ex-premier Tony Blair, as Libya came in from the cold.

But leading politicians and the LSE scrambled to distance themselves from Saif as his talk of ushering in democracy vanished and he stood by his father when his regime unsuccessfully fought a rebellion backed by NATO air strikes.

The embarrassment has been greatest for the LSE, who admitted that Saif al-Islam`s International Charity and Development Foundation pledged USD 2.3 million to the institution over five years.

The LSE`s director Howard Davies, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, resigned over the donation and the school launched a probe into claims that Saif al-Islam plagiarised his thesis for a PhD it awarded him in 2008.

During his time in London, he reportedly enjoyed a playboy lifestyle, living in a multi-million-pound house in the upmarket district of Hampstead.

Questions have also been raised about Saif al-Islam`s role in talks to secure the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, freed by the Scottish government in 2009 on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The arrest of Saif in southern Libya last week has sparked speculation in Britain on the prospects of new revelations at his trial about the cosy relationship between Tripoli and London.

Shashank Joshi, from defence think-tank RUSI, said that Saif was likely to know a lot about the "process of rapprochement”.

"He may know about the diplomatic side, about the specific quid pro quos that were indicated between the UK and Libya," he said.

But he thought it unlikely any judge would give Saif the chance to speak, to stop him using the court "as a mouthpiece or megaphone”.


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