Few of the expatriate businessmen and tourists traipsing through the lobby of Qatar’s Four Seasons Hotel paid attention to the imposing figure in Arab robes lounging on a sofa in an alcove.
The pianist a few feet away played “I Just Called to Say I love You. Men in traditional Qatari white kandouras – gowns – and headdresses sat scattered around the nearby café.
Yet, the man’s distinctive features were until recently one of the best-known faces of the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi.
Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister who defected to Britain at the end of March, left for Qatar shortly afterwards to take part in a “Gulf contact group” meeting of countries with an interest in resolving the Libya crisis.
He was expected to return to Britain shortly afterwards, where he was facing calls for his prosecution over accusations ranging from the Lockerbie bombing to supplying arms to the IRA.
Ten weeks later, there is little sign of that at the Four Seasons, causing growing anger among Libyan exiles and others who want him to be put on trial at the International Criminal Court.
“I remain firmly of the view that he should face the ICC,” said Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow whose family are of Libyan-Italian-Jewish ancestry and fled after suffering during pogroms. “You can’t have people like that being given protection without any recourse to justice.”
Mr Koussa was one of Col Gaddafi’s longest serving aides. He first came to attention in Britain as ambassador in 1980, giving an interview announcing that two Libyan exiles in London were to be killed. He was expelled immediately.
He was deputy head of Libyan intelligence at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, and then head, before becoming foreign minister in 2009. The intelligence agency was responsible for tracking down and killing regime opponents outside the country.
When the uprising against Col Gaddafi’s rule began, he was still very much part of the inner circle. He gave angry press conferences in the Rixos Hotel, where journalists have been lodged in Tripoli, to denounce foreign interference. But just a few days later he negotiated safe passage to London with MI6. The British intelligence services had long regarded Mr Koussa as an “asset”.
Nevertheless, his presence in Britain led to demands for legal action.
Some family members of those killed by Irish terrorism said they wanted to bring a private prosecution over the shipments of weapons sent by the regime to the IRA.
Even though the “contact group” meeting was only a day long, Mr Koussa never returned. A striking figure – he is around 6ft 4in – the most noticeable change since his Tripoli appearances is that he has abandoned his distinctive grey western suits and jackets, worn with a tieless shirt, for a full-length robe with skullcap.
He eats regularly from the £35 all-you-can-eat buffet, though he is also said to have a liking for the expensive Il Teatro Italian restaurant. Both have views over the hotel’s swimming pools and private beach, and the yacht marina next door.
It is not clear who is paying. He was originally a guest of the Qatari government, but he also had his private assets unfrozen as a reward for defecting. He occasionally relaxes in the lobby, accompanied always by one of a number of men who are clearly intelligence minders – they are dressed in Western style in jeans and T-shirts, and work on iPads.
When The Daily Telegraph approached to request an interview, a minder snapped his fingers, and within seconds a group of kandoura-wearing Qataris on duty in the lobby formed a protective shield.
“I am a little too busy to talk now,” Mr Koussa said. He had previously been reading a newspaper. Mr Koussa’s life of luxury reflects a dilemma in how to treat renegades from the Gaddafi regime.
Whitehall officials privately express fears that other Libyans would be deterred from defecting if Mr Koussa faced charges for his past role.
Yet, many Libyan exiles and the families of Lockerbie victims are outraged to see corrupt members of the former regime freely taking up senior positions with the opposition.
In Mr Koussa’s case, the situation is complicated because of his relationship with MI6. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said he had not been given immunity from prosecution, yet the Foreign Office said as far as it was concerned Mr Koussa was free to come and go.
Political sources have said that the decision to allow him to leave was made “in the interests of national security”.
“It makes me sick to think of Koussa swanning around the Four Seasons,” said one Libyan who helped set up Al-Hurra, the Free Libya radio station based in Qatar. “He has so much blood on his hands.”
Source: The Telegraph