Canada rejects asylum seeker deported to torture in Libya

By:Sandra Contenta

Canadian officials are washing their hands of an asylum seeker who was tortured when Canada deported him and his family to Libya, while it was still in the clutches of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Adel Benhmuda learned this week that his application to return to Canada with his family, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, was rejected by immigration officials.

Adel Benhmuda, his wife Aisha, and their children — including Adam, left, and Omar — were deported to Libya in 2008 after their claim for refugee status in Canada was rejected. The family was granted that status in Malta, but say their future is in Canada.

“It’s a real shock, especially for the kids,” said Benhmuda, whose two youngest sons were born in Toronto. “Tears are everywhere.”

Benhmuda, his wife, Aisha, and his four sons spent eight years in Canada. They were deported in 2008 after their claim for refugee status was rejected. Benhmuda was detained on arrival in Tripoli and jailed for a total of six months on two separate occasions.

During that time, he says, prison guards regularly bound his bare feet, strung him up in the air and beat his soles with batons and electrical wires. The family then fled to the island of Malta and was granted refugee status. Last February, the United Nation’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, formally asked Canada to resettle them as refugees.

Benhmuda’s Toronto lawyer, Andrew Brouwer, said rejecting the family’s request to return is particularly outrageous given that Canada effectively deported Benhmuda to torture.

“That’s on the hands of the Canadian government,” Brouwer said. “They have blood on their hands.”

“It’s crazy,” he added. “It’s a clear-cut humanitarian and compassionate application, and the refusal is completely unsustainable. We have a family with two Canadian-born kids, they were well-established in Canada, and (Benhmuda) has offers of work here.”

The family’s hopes were rekindled when — after the Star revealed their ordeal — the NDP raised the case in the House of Commons in June. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney insisted that Canadian governments do not deport people to torture, and defended Canada’s asylum system as the fairest in the world.

Kenney added, however, that his officials would give the family’s request to return to Canada “every humanitarian consideration” possible, and do so quickly.

At the end of September, an immigration officer from the Canadian embassy in Rome interviewed the Benhmudas in their small apartment in Malta. Rejection came in a Nov. 8 letter — received by Benhmuda’s lawyer on Nov. 21.

“After consideration of your application and the supporting information provided, I have concluded that humanitarian and compassionate considerations do not justify granting you an exemption from any applicable criteria or obligation of the (Immigration and Refugee Protection) Act,” says the letter, signed by S. Finall, first secretary for immigration at the Canadian embassy in Rome.

The letter does not address the torture Benhmuda says he suffered in Libya, but notes that he now benefits “from the protection of Malta,” where he obtained asylum. It ends with the phrase: “Thank you for the interest you have shown in Canada.”

Brouwer is now appealing directly to Kenney, asking the minister to overturn the decision of his officials and to allow the Benhmudas back.

Asked if Kenney might review the decision, his spokesperson, Candice Malcolm, said: “It’ll depend, I guess, if the case is brought to his attention, and what the facts are.” She said the department would be willing to say more about the case if Benhmuda signed a form consenting to the disclosure of private information.

In a telephone interview, Benhmuda says his sons — aged 8 to 16 — were so upset by the news they were unable to go to school.

“I want to go back for the future of my kids,” says Benhmuda, 43. “Canada is the country they grew up in. It’s the culture they know. It’s the country they love.”

Particularly upsetting to Benhmuda is how Canadian authorities deported him and his family. First, they concluded it was safe to return them to Libya, a country long known for its atrocious human rights record, a country Canadian and NATO warplanes bombed to help rebels get rid of Gadhafi.

Then they refused to let them carry their own passports and case file. They gave the documents to the crew of the commercial airline, and the crew handed them to Libyan authorities on arrival in Tripoli. It was like waving a red flag.

While beating him in jail, guards would accuse Benhmuda of shaming Libya by applying for asylum in Canada. After 18 months, he bribed his way out of Libya and landed with his family in Malta in 2010 after a roundabout route. They spent the first nine months on the Mediterranean island living in a cargo container in a refugee camp.

Benhmuda has been unable to find work. His children are struggling to learn Maltese, and they sleep on mattresses on the floor in one room. Adam, the youngest, suffers from asthma, and Moawiya, 14, from muscular dystrophy. Both were under regular medical care in Canada.

The island of 400,000 is under increasing pressure from African migrants and refugees landing on its shores. It has no refugee integration policy, and racism creates “an environment of fear, tension and mistrust,” the UNHCR says.

Benhmuda first fled Libya in 2000, after being roughly interrogated “10 to 15 times” by police wanting to know the whereabouts of his younger brother, Abu Baker. The brother belonged to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gadhafi organization that officially joined Al Qaeda in 2007 before cutting off ties two years later.

During the revolt that overthrew Gadhafi, LIFG members were represented in the rebel force’s Transitional National Council, which Canada officially recognized.

Benhmuda and his family arrived in Toronto after paying a smuggler $2,000 for a student visa to Canada. While his refugee application was being considered, he worked at two jobs, driving a truck at night and working in an optical lab by day. His wife, Aisha, volunteered at her children’s Mississauga school.

A refugee tribunal decided it did not believe Benhmuda’s story of repeated harassment and rough interrogation by Libyan police.

“I will never forget what Malta has done for us,” Benhmuda says, “but there is no future for us here. Our future is in Canada.”

Source: The Star

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Libya Crisis Map

OCHA, UNOSAT and NetHope have been collaborating with the Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) specifically CrisisMappers, Crisis Commons, Open Street Map, and the Google Crisis Response Team over the past week.

The CrisisMappers Standby Task Force has been undertaking a mapping of social media, news reports and official situation reports from within Libya and along the borders at the request of OCHA ( The Task Force is also aiding in the collection and mapping of 3W information for the response. UNOSAT is kindly hosting the Common Operational Datasets to be used during the emergency. Interaction with these groups is being coordinated by OCHA’s Information Services Section.

The public version of this map does not include personal identifiers and does not include descriptions for the reports mapped. This restriction is for security reasons. All information included on this map is derived from information that is already publicly available online (see Sources tab:

Focal Points & Media Relations:

* UN/OCHA: Brendan McDonald [mcdonaldb @]
* CrisisMappers/TaskForce: Patrick Meier [patric @]

For more information visit: Libyan Crises Map (

Translation of Declaration of the Establishment of National Transitional Temporary Council in Libya

Link to original Arabic Declaration, click here. For an unofficial German translation click here.


The Libyan Republic

Declaration of the Establishment of the
National Transitional Temporary Council

In affirmation of the sovereignty of the Libyan people over the entirety of their territory, land, sea and air; and in response to the demands of the Libyan people, towards the realization of the free will with which they shaped the uprising of February 17th; and in preservation of the Libyan people’s national unity; we resolve to establish a national council named ‘the National Transitional Temporary Council’ to be the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

Article 1

1. To ensure the safety and peace of citizens and the national territory
2. To coordinate national efforts to liberate the remaining quarters of the nation
3. To coordinate the efforts of local councils working towards the return of civic life
4. To supervise the military council so as to ensure the realization of a new doctrine for the national army towards the defense of the Libyan people and protection of its borders
5. To supervise the election of a founding assembly charged with developing a new constitution for the country to be submitted to public referendum, so that the legitimacy of the constitution is founded on: the will of the people, the triumphant uprising of February 17th, respect for human rights, guarantee of civil liberties, separation of powers, an independent judiciary and the establishment of national institutions that provide for broad and pluralistic participation, the peaceful transition of authority and the right of representation for every segment of Libyan society
6. To form a transitional government to pave the way for free elections
7. To conduct and to steer foreign policy, to organize relations with foreign nations and international and regional organizations, and to represent the Libyan people before them

Article 2
The Council’s Organizational Structure

1. The Council is composed of 30 members, representing all of Libya’s regions and all segments of Libyan society, with youth membership representing no less than 5 members.
2. The Council will select from its members a president, an official spokesperson and coordinators for a variety of domestic and foreign functions.

Article 3
Seat of the Council

The Council’s permanent seat is at the capital, Tripoli, taking Benghazi as its temporary seat until the capital is liberated.

Article 4

It is the responsibility of the Council to set protocols for its regular and emergency meetings and to make decisions in accordance with the interests of the Libyan people, in a manner that does not contradict the people’s demands, the basis of which were declared by the uprising of February 17th: the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the establishment of a civil, constitutional and democratic state.

Article 5

Based on agreement of municipal councils across various liberated areas, the Council selects Mr. Mustafa Abdul Jaleel as the President of the National Transitional Temporary Council and Mr. Abdul Hafid Abdul Qader Ghoga as his Deputy and the Official Spokesperson for the Council.

Long Live a Free and United Libya
Glory to the Martyrs of the February 17th Uprising

Liberated Libya March 2, 2011

February 17th Revolutionaries
(stamped by the Coalition of February 17th)


Live: Libya Unrest

Daily, Live minute-by-minute coverage of the unrest in Libya.

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Dental records for Hana Gaddafi reopen mystery of Libyan leader’s daughter

By James Kirkup

Files stored in a basement room in one of London’s most expensive districts could shed new light on one of the greatest mysteries of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya: the alleged death of his baby daughter.

The documents were found in the Libyan Embassy in Knightsbridge this week after rebels fighting to end Gaddafi’s reign formally took possession of the “People’s Bureau”. They disclose a London dentist’s work for the Gaddafi regime, reopening the mystery of the daughter the Libyan leader claims was killed in a US bombing raid.

Stephen Hopson refused to discuss his dealings with Libya

The Daily Telegraph has seen the papers. They show that in 2008 Libyan officials in London arranged for the dentist, Stephen Hopson, to fly to Tripoli to treat a patient called “Hana Ghadafi”.

Hana was the name of the baby daughter that Gaddafi claimed was killed in the US air strike on Tripoli in 1986. The attack is said to have led the dictator to order terrorist reprisals, including the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Hana Gaddafi’s death has never been verified, and many Libyans believe she actually survived the 1986 attack and still lives in Tripoli.

In 2008, the Libyan ambassador, Omar Jelban, personally arranged a business class flight to Tripoli for Mr Hopson.

The dentist declined yesterday to give details of his patient or discuss his professional dealings with the regime. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part, but the documents will revive speculation about the dictator’s daughter.

They show the Libyan embassy arranging for Mr Hopson to visit Tripoli in April 2008. In a fax to Mr Jelban, the dentist said he would be treating a patient he identified as “Miss Hana Ghadafi”.

It reads: “This is to confirm that I will be visiting Tripoli to treat Miss Hana Ghadafi this coming weekend. I will need a return plane ticket leaving the morning of Saturday 19th April and returning to London on the afternoon/evening of Sunday 20th April.”

There is no agreed way of rendering Arabic names into Roman script, meaning that Western spellings of Libyan names vary.

Also on April 14 2008, the Libyan ambassador instructed a London travel company to arrange flights for Mr Hopson, at the Libyan government’s expense.

Mr Jelban wrote a signed letter to Arab Tours asking them to issue the dentist with business-class British Airways tickets for the dates he requested. “Please send your invoice for settlement, with a copy of this letter, to the Libyan People’s Bureau in London,” he wrote.

Asked about Miss Gaddafi and the Libyan trip, Mr Hopson said he was “neither admitting or denying” anything. He said he could not give any details about his patient.

“There’s an element of patient confidentiality and if you were a patient, you wouldn’t want me revealing anything about any care that you had received and that’s why I can make no comment about any of this” he said.

Asked if his patient was Col Gaddafi’s daughter, Mr Hopson said: “It’s possible perhaps there could be a second Hana Gaddafi. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility.”

This week, Die Welt, a German newspaper, reported that Gaddafi’s daughter is alive and well and living in Tripoli.

Hana Gaddafi is thought to have been born in November 1985 and adopted by the Libyan leader shortly afterwards. Since her alleged death, a number of reports have suggested that she survived and remains close to Col Gaddafi.

In 1999, the official Chinese state news agency reported the presence of a Hana Gaddafi at a lunch her father held for Nelson Mandela.

This year, the Swiss froze assets linked to the Gaddafi family, including assets held under that name. Miss Gaddafi was reported to have lived in London as a teenager before studying medicine in Tripoli and working for the health ministry.

The embassy’s files contain numerous other documents relating to trips arranged to Libya by officials, but few involved Mr Jelban directly.

A Libyan government official on Friday night claimed that Hana is a second adopted daughter taken on by Col Gaddafi after the first one was killed in the 1986 bombing.

“This not an important issue when we have children dead and Nato bombing civilians in our country,” a Tripoli official said. “The Daily Telegraph should concentrate on these important issues.”

Source: Telegraph

Armed militia members haven’t been integrated into new Libya

In an abandoned house on a rocky escarpment perched high above Tripoli’s coastline, a lone teenage fighter sat in his pickup, armed with a pair of Kalashnikov rifles.

Abdullah Ghurah, 19, came from the city of Zintan, high in Libya’s western mountains. Like many young men who belonged to the brigades of revolutionary fighters that stormed Tripoli in August, he is still here with his band of militiamen.

Libya’s civil war is over, but the country is full of men such as Ghurah, members of independent militias who have not been reintegrated into normal life or absorbed into the new national army.

Libya’s civil war is over

Throughout the capital, there are checkpoints manned by brigades of fighters who use trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns and other heavy weapons even though the city was liberated from government forces in August.

Libya’s new leaders say it will be difficult asserting authority over these brigades, some of which worry that the revolution can be reversed, and persuading them to disband.

“Those who want to … can join the national army and will be given proper training,” said Abdelrahman Busin, the military spokesman for the National Transitional Council. He acknowledged that there was an unwillingness among some fighters to put aside their weapons.

“A lot of people are concerned about the revolution being stolen from them, and until the government can prove that they are working in their best interests, they won’t lay down their arms,” he said.

No one knows how many men took up arms, but estimates range from 125,000 to 150,000, Busin said. The Interior Ministry plans to give jobs to 20,000 of these men in new security forces. Another 20,000 are to get positions in border security.

That leaves many others without jobs.

Many of the militias are groups of civilians who took up arms and organized themselves locally – naming their brigades after the towns or regions they come from. These bands of independent fighters greatly outnumber the units from Moammar Gadhafi’s army that defected and joined the revolutionaries.

For many, disbanding would mean conceding some of the status they won on the battlefield and handing over control to the politicians running Libya, an unelected council of technocrats.

Fighters from the western city of Misrata, where some of the bloodiest battles of the civil war took place, continue to patrol parts of the country, including Tripoli, Sirte and the south. Fighters from the city are holding on to their weapons.

“Misrata has not decided to surrender weapons unto the government,” said Ismail Zoubi, a young man from the Tiger brigade.

“We all agree that we have to take these weapons out of the street,” said Mohammed bin Rasali of the Misrata city council, “but for the revolutionary fighters to hand in their weapons to an unelected government, I think that these weapons should be handed to an elected government.” He points out that Libya’s National Transitional Council is a self-appointed body.

Rasali said he has seen no programs to reintegrate fighters into normal life. “They (revolutionary fighters) right now are in a state of shock, and once they do emerge, they will be very hard to please,” he said.

Throughout the capital, young fighters spoke of their disorientation as they try to adjust to normal life after months at the front line.

“I saw things that I can never delete from my life,” said Mouad Beitru, 20, an architecture student who joined a brigade at the beginning of the revolution. “One day you’re happy, one day you’re sad, one day you’re mad, one day you’re crazy. We’re watching movies now, but we saw it live.”

Part of the problem is that Libya has never had a truly professional army. Gadhafi, who himself took power in a military coup as a junior officer, mistrusted his officers and would try to balance power among various military outfits.

“Gadhafi didn’t like the army before, he just made brigades for his sons and himself,” explained Fouad ben Shabban, a fighter from the town of Zintan who manned a checkpoint in downtown Tripoli. “The army was very bad, but now we’re trying to make it better.”

Not all fighters are unwilling to turn in their arms.

Abdul Basset Hussein showed a certificate he received for turning in his weapon. He hopes others will do the same.

” I want to deliver a message to the world: Don’t be afraid, we are not fighters,” he said.

Source: USA Today

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Video: Syrian Ambassador fleeing embassy in Libya


The Interim Government gave the Syrian Ambassador 72 hours to pack up earlier this week. Here are his last moments fleeing from the embassy on the way to the airport.


We’re going tо wrap uр thе live blog. Here’s a summary оf whеrе things stand:

• Basic details оf thе attack оn a US diplomatic outpost іn Benghazi, Libya, remain unknown. US officials said thеу don’t know hоw Ambassador Chris Stevens died. It іѕ unclear whо carried оut thе attack, аnd whеthеr іt wаѕ planned bеfоrеhаnd, аѕ thе White House suspects.

• President Obama paid tribute tо Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith аnd twо оthеr Americans killed іn Benghazi іn a meeting wіth State Department staff.

• Thе film said tо hаvе incited thе anti-US violence appears tо hаvе bееn mаdе wіthоut thе full cooperation оf іtѕ actors, оnе оf whоm told Gawker ѕhе wаѕ shocked tо learn ѕhе hаd performed іn a spoof оf Islam. Thе film wаѕ originally nоt аbоut thе Prophet Mohammed but аbоut ѕоmеоnе called Master George, ѕhе said. Thе identity оf thе filmmaker іѕ ѕtіll unknown.

• Thе outpost іn Benghazi wаѕ unguarded bу Marines, аѕ аll full US embassies аrе. Thе Benghazi post wаѕ аn interim facility wіth lesser security. Fifty members оf аn elite Marine guard wеrе deployed tо Benghazi Wednesday.

• Mitt Romney drew fіrе fоr attacking thе White House response tо thе crisis іn Cairo bеfоrе news hаd emerged оf Stevens’ death іn Libya. President Obama said Romney “seems tо hаvе a tendency tо shoot fіrѕt аnd aim later.”

• Libyans staged rallies іn Tripoli аnd Benghazi tо condemn thе attacks оn thе US outpost. Libya elected іtѕ fіrѕt post-Gaddafi prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur.

Libya Chooses New Prime Minister


The Libyan National Transitional Council has chosen a Tripoli businessman to head the interim governing authority and help shepherd the country’s political transition from its Gadhafi-era dictatorship to its first elections.

Abdul Rahmin El Keeb won a simple majority of the votes cast by the 54 members of the NTC, beating out several other candidates who had been culled from the running after they lost in earlier rounds of voting Monday evening.

Newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Rahmin El Keeb is congratulated by National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil (R) at the end of a public vote in Tripoli.

Mr. Elkeeb spent many years in exile outside Libya, but played a significant role in financing the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi and organizing the underground rebellion inside Tripoli this summer, when the capital was struggling to shake off the tight grip of the regime’s troops and intelligence agents.

He will take the place of Mahmoud Jibril, who has headed the rebel-led governing authority throughout the revolt and is credited with receiving foreign recognition for the NTC and building tight relationships between the NTC and North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries.

Mr. Elkeeb is expected to form a new cabinet in coming days, while the NTC legislative body discusses a formula to expand its ranks from its current number to at least 70 members, according to Libyan officials.

The NTC is now in a period of expansion, bringing in representatives from all parts of Libya, including areas of the country that won independence from the Gadhafi regime early in the struggle that began in February and areas that were the last to fall, such as the former ruler’s hometown of Sirte, which the NTC fighters gained control of only two weeks ago.

Mr. Jibril, the departing prime minister, has suggested increasing the size of the legislative body to 120 members to include both regional representatives as well as officials from key segments of society, such as women, young people and the military councils that control security in each Libyan municipality.

Source: WSJ

For Amal, life (re)begins at 75


Since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, over 180 independent newspapers have sprung up in Libya, like flowers in the desert after a rare downpour. Like desert flowers, most will die.

Yet a few that aren’t simple opinion sheets, which instead contain news and features and are more professionally run, will survive. One such is Al-Kalima (The Word) and one of its regular contributors is Amal Omar Shennib.

Left to right: Wanis Gaddafi, Omar Shennib and Amal Omar Shennib.

Born in 1935, she is not only the oldest Libyan woman writer but also the first. At age 15, before the country gained independence, she wrote for a magazine simply called Libya. Today, she often writes about the lost Libya, the Libya that Qaddafi hated and in true Stalinist style erased all reference to in books and the media: The Libya between independence in 1951 and 1969 when he seized power and abolished the monarchy.

“We knew nothing about that period; we’re only finding out about it now,” said Abdel Halim, a young Libyan university student whom Arab News later met in downtown Tripoli.

He recounted what had happened when he had visited the former royal palace there (now a museum) earlier this year while Qaddafi was still in control of the city. (The building in fact had started out as the Italian governor’s palace during the colonial period.) “I asked why there was nothing about King Idris. The guides told us they were forbidden to mention him.”

It is a story heard time and again in Libya: Young people who rose up and overthrew Qaddafi, craving to find out about the hidden past and reconnect with it.

For young Libyans, Amal provides a bridge to that past. She was intimately associated with it. Her husband, Wanis Gaddafi (no relation), was the last prime minister under King Idris. Her father, Omar Faiek Shennib, helped negotiate Libya’s independence and was head of the Royal Court as well as minister of defense in the first post-independence government. His more lasting claim to fame is that he designed the tricolor star and crescent flag that served Libya during the period of the monarchy and is now the icon of the new Libya.

Hers is a remarkable story of courage and endurance, not least because of what she and her family suffered under Qaddafi: Her husband in jail for two years, his health broken; her oldest son Majid forced to flee for his life to the US in 1977 and unable to return until 1994; her younger son Mohsen, Qaddafi’s youngest political prisoner, arrested in 1981 aged 13 and held for seven years; her brother, Abdul-Aziz Shennib, a commander in the pre-1969 Libyan army arrested in the first days after Qaddafi seizing power and imprisoned for four and a half years. He was later released and sent as ambassador to Jordan, but it was no gesture of reconciliation with the old regime. Abdul-Aziz had been at Sandhurst with King Hussein and he had orders from Qaddafi to assassinate him. Once in Amman, he told the king of the plot. He joined the opposition and later, at a press conference in Cairo, revealed that Qaddafi had murdered Lebanese cleric Musa Sadr.

Standing outside her modest house in Benghazi, no one could imagine the wealth of history within Libya. On the grand piano in the sitting room, there are silver-framed photos of her father, in dark suit and fez, like Egyptian ministers of the period, accompanying foreign dignitaries. On the table beside the sofa is a silver cigarette case with her husband’s initials “WG” on it. Other objects in the room carry the same initials.

The Libyan flag designed by Amal’s father Omar Shennib.*

Offering tea and cakes, Amal tells her story. She was born in Damascus where her family was in exile because of her father’s support for the freedom movement against the Italians. Back in Libya, following the defeat of the Mussolini’s forces and the country now under British military administration, she went to school where she did so well that in 1955 she was offered a place at university in Egypt. She hoped to be a doctor. At the time, she was already working as a schoolteacher, a job she continued for the next 17 years. Marriage to Wanis Gaddafi in 1956, however, put paid to her medical ambitions. She went to university in 1960 to study history and Arabic and graduated in 1964, when she became headmistress of a girls’ school.

Born in 1922 in Benghazi, Wanis was a bright star in the new independent Libya. During the Italian period, he had come to the attention of an Italian lawyer who trained him for the law. The British took over in 1942 and the young Gaddafi who became involved in the Benghazi city administration soon came to their attention. After the war, he was the offered a scholarship to Oxford but never took it up because he was recruited by the British to help in Cyrenaica’s political administration — the first Libyan they recruited. After independence in 1951, Wanis served as a provincial minister in Cyrenaica, successively of health, justice and transportation. Later, he became chairman of Cyrenaica’s executive council. In 1962, he was appointed Libyan foreign minister. Thereafter, he served in almost all Libya governments in a variety of posts apart from a brief stint as Libyan ambassador to Germany in 1964/1965. In 1967, he became foreign minister for the second time, and then, in September that year, he was appointed prime minister, a post he held until his namesake seized power a year later, on Sept. 1, 1969.

Her son, Majid, produces the formal letter from King Idris, formally appointing his father prime minister. He also produces a letter of potentially greater import. It was found among his father’s effects after Qaddafi had arrested him. It is a letter, in Arabic, from what was then the six-member European Economic Community purportedly inviting Libya to become an associate member. This was at a time that France was vetoing Britain’s attempts to join.

Two days after the coup — “it was not a revolution, it was a seizure of power,” Amal says forcibly — a soldier came to their small flat and arrested her husband. “We did not have palaces like he (Qaddafi) did.” Another forceful point.

Four months later, he was released. “He was told to stay at home,” Amal says. It was house arrest. “He said he would not go out but could not prevent anyone coming to visit us. So, they put soldiers on the door to stop anyone coming.”

In 1970, he was re-arrested and accused of letting the king leave Libya just before the coup. “How could he stop him? Idris was the king,” Amal says. The logic was wasted on the new regime. They were determined to imprison him.

The king’s departure before the coup remains the source of great speculation and conspiracy theories. Idris, a devout ascetic who lived a simple life, was not interested in day-to-day politics and had previously tried to abdicate. However, great pressure had been put on him to stay. By summer 1969, he had made up his mind. He left the country in July for Greece, ostensibly for a holiday, and in August, he issued an instrument of abdication from Athens to come into effect on Sept. 2 in favor of his nephew, Crown Prince Hassan. He then went to Turkey for medical treatment.

However, the man who was effectively chief of staff, Col. Abdelaziz Shelhi, who with brother Omar had been treated by the king as the sons he never had, had other plans. He planned a coup for Sept. 5. However, it was preempted by Qaddafi’s coup on Sept. 1. The problem was that Shelhi’s coup was widely known — so well known that when the crown prince was arrested, he reportedly asked if those arresting him were Shelhi’s men.

Those conspiracy theories, however, center around a more dramatic suggestion that the British, who had major military bases in Libya and who were very close to the Libyan army high command, backed Shelhi. They supposedly felt that a Libya led by the crown prince would soon fall into the hands of Nasserites and become a client of Egypt, and through it, the Soviet Union. They saw Shelhi as able to lead a pro-Western Libya.

The second part of this conspiracy is that the captains’ coup which preempted that of the senior officers’ was backed by the CIA. There is no evidence — although, interestingly, Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum became a close friend to the new regime. But then Hammer had some strange friends.

Amal still retains great affection for the late king. “He was a father to me.” She recalls a particular debate in 1962 when Libya amended its constitution to become a unitary state and the issue of women being allowed to vote was being hotly debated. Two politicians went to the king to put opposing cases: that women should be allowed to vote in elections to parliament, and that they should not. “The king listened,” Amal recounts, “and then said: ‘You are both wrong. They should not only be allowed to vote, they should be allowed to stand for parliament.’”

Wanis was jailed for two years for “permitting” the king to leave, and it broke his health. In 1974, at age 52, he suffered a heart attack, but was refused permission to leave the country for treatment. Amal had already quit her job as headmistress of the high school that she had helped found in 1961 in order to look after him.

Resigning had not been easy despite the new regime’s purge of all schoolteachers connected to the old one, which offered five years’ extra pension rights if they would go. Yet, when she submitted her resignation, triggered by the new regime’s decision that high school girls must wear army uniforms (something that continued in Tripoli until just weeks ago), it was refused. She was forced to stay on for another year until a replacement could be found, but without pay. Nor did she ever receive the five years’ extra pension rights.

In 1977, Amal’s eldest son, Majid, left for the US. He had been involved in the anti-Qaddafi demonstrations the previous year at Benghazi’s Gar Younis university. They had been crushed mercilessly with students killed or jailed. “The system was so much stronger than we were,” he said. “We had to leave.” He went to Portland where he studied engineering. He is grateful to the Americans. “The US was very kind to me. They helped me a lot.”

Her younger son, Mohsen, had a more horrific experience. In 1981, at age 13, he became involved in a plot against Qaddafi. The plot was discovered and its leaders executed. Others were sentenced to life imprisonment. Mohsen was jailed. He spent his 14th birthday and the next seven years in jail, as Qaddafi’s youngest political prisoner.

In 1986, Wanis Gaddafi died. For Amal, it was a terrible time. Her eldest son was far away with no prospect of ever returning, and her youngest son was in jail. He was released in 1988 but was watched continuously; it was clear that the regime had him in its sights. The family decided he had to get out of the country. He was smuggled into Tunisia, just in time. After he left, the police arrived at the house intent on arresting him. From Tunis, he headed to Egypt to resume his education but when Qaddafi normalized relations with Egypt in 1989, the Libyan opposition there felt threatened. Mohsen went to the US to join his brother.

Slowly, the system relaxed somewhat. In 1994, Majid returned to test the waters. Mohsen followed soon afterward. The family was reunited, but for Amal, there were still restrictions. She lived out of the public eye. She was not allowed to write or be published.

Then, in February, freedom came and the gentle Amal became an unlikely revolutionary. On the “Day of Rage,” called by the opposition for Feb. 17, she was there outside the Court House, the focus of the revolution. “I cried when I saw the flag, which my father designed.” It was a cold day, says her son Majid. “I was afraid she would catch cold.”

But she would not leave. “I started working immediately,” she says, writing a column for Kalima every week.

So, what are her hopes for the future? Where does she see Libya going? “I hope for the best. Anyway, we got rid of that man. At least we have our identity back,” she says.

She has no illusions that everything will be plain sailing from now on. “It’s a difficult time now,” she says, “but the difficulties will pass. We must be patient. It will take time. We cannot go back to the past, but we can now go forward.”

A woman of great dignity and deeply inspiring, she does not intend to stop writing. “I’m now an old woman, but still very active,” she says with a sparkle in her eyes.

An old woman, perhaps, but one with a very young heart.

The different spelling of the names Qaddafi/Gaddafi are deliberate. They differentiate the two characters and, in the case of Wanis, that was how he spelled it.

*The colors of the flag have a double meaning: To the black flag (with crescent and star) of Cyenaica, of which Idris was emir before the creation of Libya in 1951, was added the green to represent Tripolitania and red for Fezzan. But it also represents the black flag “Al-Uqaab” of the Prophet (pbuh) and the crescent and star representing Islam, red for the blood of those who died fighting the Italians and green for the verdant lands along the coast and in the oases