'I faced death here' - Libyan embassy protesters speak out

By Glenn Campbell
BBC Newsnight

  • Published
Media caption,
Newsnight's Glenn Campbell speaks to two British Libyans injured in the 1984 London embassy shootings who tell their story for the first time.

For almost three decades, two British Libyans who were injured outside the Libyan embassy in London during an anti-Gaddafi protest have kept quiet for fear of reprisals from Gaddafi's henchmen.

But now, the Libyan revolution has freed them to speak out on camera for the first time.

"I remember it every day of my life because I faced death here," said Mahmoud Alagori, a London-based businessman.

Their interview comes as detectives investigating the murder of the police officer Yvonne Fletcher have visited Libya for the fourth time since the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

The Metropolitan police are trying to identify those responsible for killing their colleague and wounding 11 anti-Gaddafi protestors outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

The force said that detectives flew to Tripoli on 10 February 2013 at the request of the Libyan authorities to discuss how a "joint investigation" could be taken forward.

"I feel very angry that no one has been brought to justice. We really need to find out who did it," said Adel Mansouri, who now runs an international school in Benghazi.

"This is a matter of life and death. An innocent young woman doing her duty got killed. And I think justice has to be done," said Mr Alagori.

PC Fletcher was shot in the abdomen as she policed a peaceful protest against the Gaddafi regime in London on 17 April 1984.

Police believe the sub-machine gunfire that killed her came from inside what was then the Libyan embassy in St James's Square. No-one has ever been charged with her murder.

"I remember Yvonne Fletcher and her great smile," said Mr Mansouri. "She stood right in front of me. She had her hands behind her back and I remember her saying good morning.

"We started chanting down down to Gaddafi, stop the killing and things like this. Then a few seconds later the firing started," he said.

"I saw her fall when the shot happened," said Mr Alagori. "She was squeezing her stomach. It must have been very painful for her."

Both Mr Alagori and Mr Mansouri suffered serious bullet wounds to their legs.

No arrests

After the shootings, police laid siege to the embassy for 11 days. The stand-off ended with all Libyan diplomats being released and deported.

Britain closed its embassy in Tripoli and did not restore diplomatic relations with Libya for 15 years.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A memorial to PC Fletcher stands outside the Libyan embassy in London

In 1999, Libya accepted responsibility for Yvonne Fletcher's death and paid compensation to her family.

The Gaddafi government allowed the Metropolitan Police limited access to Libya, but their investigation stalled.

The revolution which started on 17 February 2011, raised hopes that those responsible would finally be brought to justice.

The Conservative MP, Daniel Kawczynski said he was "concerned" about the "lack of progress" in the case since then.

The Metropolitan police have visited Libya four times since the revolution to discuss the case but so far no arrests have been made.

Their most recent trip follows the prime minister's visit to Tripoli earlier in February 2013 when he announced that police investigating the Lockerbie bombing would be allowed access to the country.

Downing Street has confirmed that Mr Cameron also raised the Fletcher case with his Libyan counterpart, Ali Zeidan.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Metropolitan Police want to speak to former Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi

Some of the possible suspects have died. Others are on the run. But there is one man in Libyan custody who is widely thought to hold the key to the case.

Col Gaddafi's former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, was extradited from Mauritania to Libya in September 2012.

He has been described as the "black box" of the Gaddafi regime and the crimes it committed.

"I think he will be critical. If anybody knows who is behind this it will be him, it will be Senussi," said Mr Kawczynski.

"It is extremely important that the Metropolitan Police are given access to him in prison and that he is formally interviewed."

The former British ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles said: "You have to remember that in Libyan eyes this is not a big priority.

"If he (al-Senussi) is responsible for this they will want to pin the crime on him but not before they have dealt with the Abu Salim prison massacre in which 1,200 Libyans were killed."

Mr Senussi is also wanted by the international criminal court in connection with crimes committed during the Libyan revolution.

He has already been convicted in his absence by a French court for blowing up UTA flight 772 over Niger in 1989.

Lockerbie investigators want to question him about the destruction of Pan AM flight 103 over southern Scotland the year before.

There are many crimes linked to the Gaddafi regime and for nearly three decades those shot and wounded in St James's Square were among the forgotten victims.

Adel Mansouri and Mahmoud Alagori have changed that. They have finally been able to tell their stories and to demand justice for themselves and for Yvonne Fletcher.