By: Alexandra Topping
April 7, 2011
Libya’s former energy minister has fled to Europe, and says that several other key political figures also want to defect.
Omar Fathi bin Shatwan, who was energy minister from 2004 to 2006, said members of Muammar Gaddafi’s inner circle also wanted to leave Libya, but feared for their lives.
Shatwan, who also served as industry minister, fled to Malta on Friday from the besieged city of Misrata, the Maltese foreign ministry said. He arrived in the country but his presence had been kept a secret, it said.He said he remained in contact with members of Gaddafi’s government, who found themselves and their families under siege.
“Those whose families are outside Libya will flee if they get a chance,” Shatwan said. “But many can’t leave, and all the families of ministers are under siege.”
The former minister described how he had witnessed the widespread destruction of Misrata and had seen government forces fire on civilians indiscriminately, during a 40-day period in which he could not leave his home. He finally managed to escape Libya’s third city on a small fishing vessel.
“There has been a big bombardment and there is total destruction. After this, they occupied some streets with tanks, and put snipers in the buildings,” he said. He added that government forces were mainly foreign mercenaries, led by a small number of Libyans loyal to Gaddafi.
Shatwan is a long-standing figure in Libyan politics, and held various government posts between 1987 and 2006. He returned to his academic career after leaving government in 2007.
“At the beginning Gaddafi’s regime was good. The first 10 years saw vast improvements, the middle 20 years less so, and the last 10 years have seen terrible decline,” he said.
Shatwan is the most recent political figure to flee Libya. The country’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, defected to the UK last week.