London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of Libyan fundamentalists residing in Britain fear they will be deported to Tripoli following the memorandum of understanding that London and Tripoli concluded recently and which requires the British authorities to hand over to their Libyan counterparts persons suspected of having connections with terrorism under guarantees that they will not be ill treated.
Libyan Ambassador in London Muhammad Al-Zaway has asked Britain to hand over to Libya members of the "Libyan Islamic Fighting Group" (LIFG) on the basis that they "pose a threat" to Britain”s security.
A Libyan Islamist told Asharq al-Awsat that the number of LIFG leaders is nearly in the dozens and the British police arrested five of them at the beginning of this month in preparation for deporting them to Libya under the new British plan for combating terrorism. He added that Libya gave London after the 9/11 attacks a list of the names of 25 (LIFG) elements residing in Britain.
On his part, Libyan Islamist Numan Bin-Othman, an expert in fundamentalist movements, expressed his conviction that the British authorities are serious about deporting LIFG elements and pointed out that the arrest of five of them was a message to the supporters of the Libyan jihadist tendency or the fundamentalist one in general that Scotland Yard police would not tolerate any activities considered tantamount to "backing or preparing for terrorism."
The Libyan Islamist did not appear sure of the measures that Tony Blair”s Government might resort to following its adoption of the new antiterrorism measures. Bin-Othman, the asylum seeker who has been living in Britain for 10 years, said the picture is vague and bleak, especially after the London bombings that created turmoil in British society. But he did say he was expecting British traditions to triumph in the end so that no one would be extradited to another country. He said: "If the British law is applied to the letter, then no one of the Libyan fundamentalists will be extradited."
Ashur al-Shamis, the Libyan opposition jurist who runs the "Akhbar Libya" (Libya news) website, called Libya”s demand for the extradition of the LIFG elements an exploitation of events in Britain since the 7 July bombings and said: "The real fears are the absence of a real and honest judiciary in Libya if the Islamists seeking political asylum in London are deported."
AFP yesterday cited the Libyan ambassador in London as saying, "we believe that all the LIFG members should be handed over to the Libyan authorities and not just a number of them because their presence will sooner or later pose a danger to Britain”s security due to their connections with Al-Qaeda organization." He added that this group "believes in violence and therefore the general rules that apply to the terrorist organizations apply to it." He pointed out that this "group”s members are living on British soil and specifically in Belfast, Manchester, and south London." The Libyan ambassador did not rule out "the trial of the wanted persons that Britain will extradite to Libya if they are wanted by the judiciary in Libya or had committed terrorist actions." He added: "Anyone with no criminal record will be welcomed among his family and his country." He also said that Libya "has not received anyone so far" and that the "agreement concluded with Britain stipulates that the front”s members will not be tortured or sentenced to death and that their personal and civil rights will be guaranteed." He asserted that the Libyan authorities "do not hate anyone and there is a difference between a devout man and an extremist who carries out terrorist actions."
The British Government signed last Tuesday an agreement with Libya that allows Britain to deport to Libya foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorism that included a guarantee they will not be ill treated. The memorandum of understanding was signed in Tripoli by British Ambassador Anthony Layden and the Libyan Foreign Ministry official in charge AbdalAti Ibrahim al-Ubaydi, according to a British Foreign Office statement. This is the first of agreements that Britain wishes to sign with other countries that lift the ban on the deportation of foreigners suspected of involvement in terrorism.