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Ali Al-Qataani
علي القطعاني
Ali Al-Qataani was born in al-Bayda in 1978. He graduated from the Zawiya Petrol Training Centre, then studied accounting at Ali Wareeth High Institute for Administration. He has worked in the oil industry since 1998. His freelance journalism career began with the Libyan revolution in February 2011. He now works for the weekly newspaper 'Al-Ain' and lives in Shahat, east of Benghazi

"I have been under siege on more than one occasion."

Mustafa Abdel Jalil Coloured background
NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil
"I have been under siege on more than one occasion."
Part 2: Mustafa Jalil, NTC Chairman, about his personal triumphs over Gaddafi and other life challenges.
15/10/2012 | Shahhat

Mustafa Abdul Jalil began a career as a football player before becoming a judge and ultimately the Minister of Justice under the dissolved regime; however, that did not stop Jalil from defying Gaddafi and announcing his resignation from the dictator’s cabinet, in an open session in the General People's Conference (GPC) in 2009.

Libyans chose Jalil to be the head of the National Transitional Council, which was formed at the onset of the revolution in 2011. Nevertheless, his performance and that of the NTC and the subsequent government have come under criticism.

Chairman Jalil, Gaddafi was not accustomed to being defied by one of his ministers but you did that when you resigned during an open session of the GPC in 2009, why?

I was dissatisfied with the situation and all observers of my verdicts since 1978 would notice that. I had my independent views as the minister of justice. No photos have been taken of me with Gaddafi and I never called him the ‘leader’ nor uttered the word 'republic'.  

I handed-in my resignation to Baghdadi Mahmudi, the Prime Minister at the time, and to Miftah K'eba, the Secretary General of the GPC. When Imbarek Shamekh became the GPC Secretary General, I said to him ‘I'm quitting,’ but he replied, ‘Gaddafi appointed you and he is the only one to remove you. You have to come the day before the GPC convenes to see if your name is in the new cabinet reshuffle.’

Indeed, I came on the agreed date but he told me I wasn't removed. I tried to find an opportunity to talk in the GPC session and I only found it during interrogation.

I was well-prepared with the Prophet's sayings and Quran verses but it turned out there was no interrogation for the Ministry of Justice. Even those interrogated weren't given the opportunity to defend themselves. When I had the chance to talk, I started with the Basmala and said "Peace be upon our Prophet" whom I described as "the only leader". I wondered why the Ministry wasn't interrogated despite the fact that we, as a popular committee, hadn't held any meetings in 2009 and 2010 because justice issues were handled by chief prosecutors and courts, while the minister was just an 'extra', which went against the people power-principle that entailed quarterly meetings.   

Furthermore, I wasn't interrogated about the innocent convicts whom I hadn't managed to release or about the convicts sentenced to death, whom I had released.  There was no honor in me maintaining my post. This provoked a severe reaction by Gaddafi and Huda Ben Amer and a well-known argument broke out.

Haven't you feared for your life?

Gaddafi didn't hesitate to do anything but I didn't fear for my life at all, despite the warnings I received through friends and some ministers, especially since I was living alone in Tripoli (Abdul Jalil frequented the capital alone without his family).

When Libyans saw me in Al Abraq Airport, they would cancel their flights, lest the plane should be blown up.

How do you explain your appointment as minister of justice under Gaddafi despite not being a part of his regime?

At the time, they were trying to carry out reforms. When I was offered the position, I stubbornly refused under the pretext that I couldn't speak English, but they replied that they wanted a minister from eastern Libya. I nominated many figures but they said "we want you only."

In fact, there were other people from outside the regime, including Dr. Ali al-Isawi and Muhammad Bu Ojaila who unfortunately didn't join the revolution. The dissolved regime invited other opponent figures to take part in the reform process, and also released others from prison.

The reform proces however aimed at keeping Gaddafi and his sons in power forever, but God didn't want that. The regime made a big mistake when Seif al-Islam said in his first speech at the time: "Those mistakes haven't been committed by my father but by his entourage, the fat cats which I will go after."

Unbelievably, considerable sums of money were allocated to the reform projects, leading Gaddafi's entourage to feel that money was slipping out of their hands and that they were under scrutiny, so they turned against him and aborted these projects, including the 60,000 housing unit project in Benghazi, which if, along with the other projects in the other cities, had been completed on the set date of September 9, 2009, people of Benghazi and the other cities wouldn't have participated in the revolution in such large numbers.

Can you tell us the details of your dissidence?

I agree with the former rime minister, Imbarek Shamekh, when he said: "Mustafa Abdul Jalil hasn't fallen out with Gaddafi because he wasn't part of his regime in the first place." I was watching the events as they unfolded and the regime held a lot of security meetings. When protests started in eastern Libya, I hastily left Tripoli for Bayda in February 16th to be near the event.

I was upset by the youths' acts of vandalism. I tried, with my friends Muhammad Dernawi, Ibrahim Fudail and Ibrahim Hazzawi, to keep them from burning courts and police stations but we couldn't. We are now feeling the consequences of those acts. Anyway, we believed in the revolution.   

Where do you belong ideologically: are you a secular, a Salafist, a Sufi or a Muslim Brotherhood member?       

I'm an ordinary Muslim and I don't join hands during the prayer. Even in Mecca I was the only person who didn't join them. We have learned that from our ancestors. I don't have a specific affiliation, and Islam is the only moderate environment.

Will you play any role in the future political landscape after the GNC, and will you join a political party?

I've never had the wish to work in politics. When I quit the NTC, I thanked God, for I'd had enough.

Some people say that I killed Abdul Fatah Younis, helped Bashir Saleh escape and let Mustafa Kharoubi go to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, but he did go there for that. Others say that I have the Turkish and Qatari nationalities and that I will reside in Italy. 

I have experienced break-ins and been under siege and in danger in more than one occasion but I survived thank God. Despite gossip and dirty acts, I and the NTC guards hurt no one.

I will not belong to any party and I'll vote in the elections as an ordinary citizen.

During the battle for Tripoli, you admitted there were corruption cases in the NTC and you promised to reveal the identity of the wrongdoers. What happened with that file?

I believe that the report of the accountability department makes it clear that most of the NTC members have been given allocations but haven't settled them properly and this is considered corruption.

During the NTC rule, there were some sit-ins demanding that Abdul Hafiz Ghogah, the former NTC's spokesperson, was sacked. Was he a victim of a conspiracy?      

Ghogah was an active lawyer even under Gaddafi. He is a struggler and a human rights activist and was among the first to join the revolution. He was chosen by the local council in Benghazi as their representative to the NTC and thus he became the NTC spokesperson.   

He was beaten in the University of Benghazi and the NTC was attacked while looking for him. That made him resign. The financial corruption accusations are ungrounded. He did nothing wrong and was just the victim of a group of mobs. 

Do you regret anything?

Things happened according to God's will. I don't regret discarding things people thought should have been done or the other way around, and I am fully responsible for that.

Will you re-practice your specialty?

I have applied for an optional retirement. In the first session, it was postponed. Today, the Supreme Justice Council contacted me and I told them about my wish to retire. I don't want to get paid while doing nothing, and I don't wish to work.   

The third part of this interview will appear next week on Correspondents.


Image: Franck Prevel/Getty Images