The story broke late last night that Moussa Koussa, Libya’s foreign minister, had defected from the regime and flown to Britain via Tunisia. Here is the story from our front page this morning.
At this morning’s Downing Street press briefing there was only one story in town. Here are a few nuggets of new information about Koussa:
1] He has brought (at least some of) his family with him. Koussa’s son gave an interview to the BBC’s Arabic channel last night, although this wasn’t immediately shared with the rest of the corporation – I’m told – which is why we’re only now learning about it. Downing St would not say whether Koussa’s entire family has defected with him but you’d imagine they have.
2] He is in an unidentified “secure location” somewhere in the UK. We are not being told if he has applied for asylum or for a visa.
3] “Moussa Koussa will not, is not being offered any immunity from British or international justice”, said the spokesman. I asked whether his eventual sentence – if he were to be found guilty of any crimes – would be mitigated for any co-operation with the western powers. There wasn’t a straight answer. Instead the spokesman merely replied that there was a UN resolution in place (1970) governing a prosecution of Gaddafi over in relation to attacks on unarmed civilians in February.
4] David Cameron signed off the decision to allow Koussa into the country.
5] Koussa has been communicating with the British government throughout the recent military action.
6] The Dumfries and Galloway police, who are responsible for investigating the Lockerbie bombing, were not told immediately about the defection.
7] Downing Street is urging other defectors to quit Libya and leave Gaddafi to his fate. The Evening Standard is reporting that half a dozen more could soon be heading this way.
Separately a former British ambassador to Libya, Sir Richard Dalton, told Radio 5 this morning there was “no evidence” for the idea that Koussa was involved in Lockerbie or the killing of Yvonne Fletcher.
Koussa had played “key roles” in normalising Libya’s international relations over the last decade, he said: “Like efforts to obtain access for the investigation of the killing of WPC Fletcher, and also efforts to conclude the issues in the late 1990s of getting the Lockerbie bombers to trial.”