afrol News, 14 November - The Berlin verdict and the official German reaction to it leave no doubt - Libya is held responsible for the terrorist attack on the 'La Belle' discotheque in 1986. The verdict however opens for improved Libyan-German relations.
The Berlin discotheque 'La Belle' was frequented by American soldiers. On 5 April 1986, according to the Superior Court of Berlin, Mrs. Verena Chanaa, now 42, placed a bomb in the popular discotheque, killing three and wounding over 200 people. Mrs. Chanaa was acting on behalf of her husband, Palestinian/German Ali Chanaa, and their friend, the Libyan Musbah Abulgasem Eter.
Mr. and Mrs. Chanaa and Mr. Eter were yesterday found guilty in the murder of 3 people and the attempted murder of 104 persons in the Berlin court, and were sentenced to between 12 and 14 years in prison. The Public Prosecutor at all times indicated that the Libyan government had supported the three convicted. He was able to produce strong indications, but never hard evidence.
The Libyan government, on the other hand, has been surprisingly open in taking responsibility for the 1986 terrorist attack. The bomb in 'La Belle' were a Libyan revenge on the US, "everybody" seems to agree on, and the official US answer was the bombing of the Libyan cities Tripoli and Benghazi shortly thereafter.
In a scandalous affair, that almost cost the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer his post in May, Libyan leader Ghadafi was cited to have admitted Libyan responsibility in secret talks with German government officials. The Protocol of the first talks between German Chancellor Schröder and US President Bush suddenly had been leaked out to the 'La Belle' prosecutor.
According to the protocol, Schröder told Bush, among other things, about the German-Libyan contacts. Schröder's advisor in foreign affairs, Michael Steiner, had visited Tripoli in March and had talks with Muhamar Ghadafi. Ghadafi had distanced himself from terrorism in the present but "he had confessed that Libya had participated in terror activities earlier (La Belle, Lockerbie)," the protocol says.
The leek was of course demented in Tripoli, Washington and Berlin within days. Nevertheless, Mr. Steiner had to testify in the 'La Belle' case - where he denied Ghadafi had made such a "confession".
Other indirect Libyan confessions are plentiful. The Libyan government, represented by the second son of the Libyan leader, Saif al-Islam Ghadafi, has tried to offer a compensation for the families of the victims, but it was turned down by the German government, which wanted the legal process to go uninterrupted.
Yesterday, only hours after the 'La Belle' verdict, the German government finally felt free to make a statement, saying it was happy the terrorist attack finally had "been given an answer according to the rule of law." Now, the government was asking the Libyans to compensate the victims' families "to prove the honesty of its new policy" of rejecting terrorism.
The German government underlines the changes in Libyan policies, which occurred during the year 2000. After Libya helped in the released of German hostages on the Philippines, Minister Fischer visited Tripoli in September 2000, as the first Western ministers in years. The ice was broken. In October 2000, the Libyan government let the Berlin Supreme Court hear witnesses in Tripoli, together with German investigators.
- The German government always has claimed that there is a clear Libyan responsibility to support a system for compensation for the victims as soon as there existed a verdict in the 'La Belle' case," the government statement reads, clearly blaming the Libyan government for its support to the 1986 terrorists.
On the other hand, the German government notes the Libyan quest for "participation in the international community of nations" and how the Libyan government now "clearly has rejected international terrorism".
A Libyan compensation for the victims is already well prepared. The German answer - closer economic ties and recommending the Libyan government to the EU and the US - is also planned for. Tripoli and Berlin are growing into a new axis in EU-North African relations. Ghadafi junior was received by the Berlin government last week, having talks on how to "intensify the economic relations" and whether to make a "treaty for the protection of investments," according to the German Federal Press Office.
The German industry certainly is interested, waiting to invest more in wealthy Libya. German investments already are second only to Italian. "Lately, we have given great petroleum projects to the Germans," said Saif al-Islam Ghadafi in a recent interview. "And there are more to come."