PM gives no assurances that abducted man in Libya is alive

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says there is no assurance Maltese man kidnapped in Libya is alive

The Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today confirmed that the Maltese citizen who was abducted in Libya last week, was alive when his captors were last contacted by the country’s diplomatic services in Libya, however he couldn’t give any guarantees on the man’s wellbeing.  

In reply to the leader of the opposition’s questions, Muscat said “I cannot give any guarantee on whether the man is alive, showing how grave the situation is. However, I can confirm that the last time I checked, the man was contacted and he was alive."

Earlier, foreign minister George Vella confirmed that a Maltese man in his 40s was abducted in Libya last week and was being held by rebel militias in the west of the country. MaltaToday understands that the man was kidnapped by the Zintani militias who are currently engaged in deadly clashes with the Misrata militias.

The man, Martin Galea, 40, is a health and safety environment professional, who started in the Armed Forces of Malta as a regimental HSE. He left the military in 2007, working with oil and gas firms in the North Sea and then in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Georgia.

MaltaToday has been told that a private military firm based in Malta is involved in the search of the man. It is unclear whether the Office of the Prime Minister was aware of the case before news broke of the abduction.
Galea was abducted after his driver did not turn up to collect him. Sources said that his partner in Malta failed to receive a daily SMS from Galea, as was his practice. Galea's wife reported him missing on Sunday 20 July, however the news only broke out on Friday.

The man works for oil and gas company Nageco, and that he has been held by militia rebels since July 17 after being abducted on his way to work in the outskirts of Tripoli.

Addressing Parlaiment tonight, Muscat expressed his full confidence in the diplomatic and security services' efforts to bring the man back to Malta, noting that a number of persons were flown to Libya in secret to carry out the operation.

Muscat warned that publicising the case and making details on the case public could put the man’s life in danger. He said government was monitoring the situation closely but Galea's whereabouts and his fate was yet unknown.

“Our first priority is to ensure Galea’s safety and make sure that we do not endanger his life,” Muscat said, adding that the man was kidnapped during a roadblock.

The Prime Minister said that government has identified the militias who abducted the man, however he would not reveal which militia is responsible because it could compromise the situation.

He added that contact with the militias had been established on a political and security level, but warned that the case should be treated with the greatest caution.

“We still believe that the less publicity is given to the case the better, because his life is in danger,” Muscat said, adding that he couldn’t report on his state of health.

Turning to the evacuation of Maltese citizens in Libya, Muscat said that there was an agreement in place between all EU member states who are represented in Libya and “once an evacuation takes place it will be a joint effort between all countries.”

He added that government was in contact with all Maltese citizens in Libya and noted that while government was making its utmost to aid persons who are leaving the country, all Maltese citizens who were currently in the North African country were there out of their free will.

In reaction, opposition leader Simon Busuttil expressed his solidarity with Galea and his family and said the opposition would back all efforts to bring the worker back, “but we expect the government to be transparent and ensure that no stone is left unturned.”

He said the PN was concerned with the government’s decision to conceal the man’d abduction for a week, adding that “as leader of the opposition I was not even informed of the case in confidence.”

Busuttil went on to ask why this information was concealed for a whole week and asked why the foreign minister George Vella downplayed the situation in Libya while knowing that a Maltese citizen was abducted in Libya.

The PN leader also asked whether the Maltese embassy has been evacuated or whether it is still functioning and assisting in the operations to free the man.