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People still want Gaddafi

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Libyans should be left free to decide their own future without media distortion of the truth, Gaddafi supporter Laila Losta tells Kurt Sansone.

Pro-Gaddafi
Name: Laila Losta
Age: 30
Works: Third secretary at the Libyan embassy in Malta
Born: Tripoli
In Malta for: Two-and-a-half years

The majority of Libyans still want Muammar Gaddafi and the UN only listened to those 20 per cent in the eastern part of the country when it authorised airstrikes, according to a supporter of the Libyan leader.

Laila Losta, third secretary at the Libyan embassy in Malta, is very critical of the coalition airstrikes, which she says are killing civilians rather than protecting them.

Speaking to The Sunday Times with the help of an interpreter at the Libyan embassy, Ms Losta says foreign intervention is intended to separate Libyans and prevent them deciding their own future.

She blames the media for distorting the facts and alleges that Qatari-based international TV network Al Jazeera “was paid to cover some of the truth”.

“Not everything is like what is shown on the international networks. A lot of people still want (Col.) Gaddafi, and people are offering to be human shields,” she says with an air of conviction.

Ms Losta refutes the argument that civilians in Tripoli are being forced to act as human shields in Col. Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya residential compound.

“This is not the case. People go out of their own free will and if I was in Libya I would do the same,” she says.

In what seems to be a contradiction, she then thanks the pilots of four Canadian fighter jets whom she claims refused to bomb certain targets because they would have killed civilians.

Aware of accusations that people like her who defend Col. Gaddafi do so because they benefit from the regime, Ms Losta insists that contrary to many Libyans she does not own her home in Libya.

“I do not favour (Col.) Gaddafi because I have everything I want but because I listen to my grandparents’ recollections of how Libya changed to the better since he took power in 1969. Not all those who favour (Col.) Gaddafi have everything they want,” she says.

The bloodless coup, which saw the young Col. Gaddafi depose King Idris in 1969, she says, freed Libya from poverty and colonialism.

She admits that some things must change and people have a right to demonstrate. Some government institutions, she says, are not providing what people want.

However, Ms Losta insists it is not right to achieve change by “fighting and killing”, and brushes aside the argument that civilians were killed by Libyan government forces before the UN authorised airstrikes.

“You are getting the wrong image. If violent people try to attack and enter an army base, it is obvious soldiers will try to protect themselves. The killings happened in these circumstances. If some people attack a police station in Malta I am sure the police will defend themselves.”

She claims that people who attacked the military compounds were armed by the terrorist organisation Al Qaeda.

Ms Losta’s explanation that soldiers only shot at armed personnel who attacked them is contradicted by the claims of two Libyan fighter jet pilots who defected to Malta after they were ordered to shoot on civilians.

“It is impossible the pilots were ordered to shoot on civilians. They said so just to destroy the image of (Col.) Gaddafi. It was a game well played,” she says after the third attempt to get her to speak on their claims.

In fiery televised speeches Col. Gaddafi has blamed the unrest on various enemies: Al Qaeda, separatists in the eastern part of the country and drugged youngsters. In all instances the possibility of ordinary people simply protesting because they are fed up with a 42-year old regime is ruled out.

Ms Losta produces an official government document that provides a detailed timeline of how events unfolded and the damage caused to government property by the demonstrators.

According to the official version, the unrest started on February 15 when some individuals took advantage of a peaceful protest by some 40 people, who were campaigning for the release of a jailed lawyer in Benghazi, and used violence.

“Some soldiers were slaughtered. Is this a peaceful request for change? Schools and police stations were burned down. Is this peaceful? These events were all planned by Al Qaeda,” she reiterates.

She also shuns the argument that dissent in Libya has always been stamped out by the regime.

“I was a journalist and I criticised the families in power and I was never sent to prison,” she says, almost annoyed at the suggestion that criticism of Col. Gaddafi and his regime is not tolerated.

Ms Losta says many people who support Col. Gaddafi will soon march all the way from Tripoli to Benghazi in a peaceful demonstration. She points out that those who support the government also shout slogans in favour of the people of Benghazi because Libyans are “one people”.

“People in Benghazi are asking us for help because senior citizens are being killed, women raped and children used as human shields,” Ms Losta says.

Asked to justify protests in the western cities of Zawijah and Misurata, Ms Losta points a finger at non-Libyan groups.

“In Zawijah the protests were led by a group of people from Egypt and Algeria. They were paid to do this.

“Some Libyans joined them because they sold their dignity. A doctor in Zawijha was offered $40,000 by protesters to talk to Al Jazeera and tell them they were without milk and blood supplies. He then went on Libyan state TV and apologised,” Ms Losta fires back.

Her focus turns to the Libyan demonstrations in Malta and says that when people protested in favour of Col. Gaddafi last week it was those who oppose the regime that pelted them with stones.

She accuses the anti-Gaddafi lobby of making unfounded allegations that the embassy threatened or paid students at the Ta’ Giorni Libyan School to demonstrate in favour of the Libyan leader.

“I am prepared to face anyone on this issue but they have to come forward with proof. The embassy did not force anyone to come out,” she says, insisting that the embassy did not organise the demonstration.

Ms Losta is angered by the allegation that she phoned individual teachers and students with a threatening tone to remind them that they had families back in Libya.

“Bring me proof. I was threatened on my mobile phone by anti-Gaddafi protesters. I still have the messages.

“My Libyan husband had requests from students and teachers at the Ta’ Giorni school to organise a demonstration for peace and against the airstrikes.

“My husband is a footballer in Malta and does not enjoy diplomatic status. The husband of his aunt was killed in Libya.

“We talk with proof but they come out with nothing.”

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