'Martin Galea was kept in safety, not abducted,' Libyans say

‘Martin Galea taken under care of militia for his own safety,' a representative of a sub-committee for the fight against corruption and smuggling says.

Maltese oil worker Martin Galea returned to Malta safe and sound (Photo: James Galea/MediaToday)
Maltese oil worker Martin Galea returned to Malta safe and sound (Photo: James Galea/MediaToday)

The Martin Galea saga took an unusually strange twist last night when the MaltaToday newsroom was told that the Maltese oil worker had allegedly not been abducted in Libya, but taken in for “his own safety”.

The unexpected turn of events surprised the newsroom when Khaled M. Ibrahim Ben Nasan spoke to MaltaToday journalists on his role, and that of other Libyans - including a senior military official from the Zintani militia and Malta’s Ambassador to Libya, Mannie Galea - in finding out what had happened to Galea and to ensure his safe return home.

Khaled Ben Nasan described himself as a representative of a sub-committee for the fight against corruption and smuggling in Libya.

Martin Galea disappeared about three days before the government became aware of it last Sunday week. News of the disappearance was broken by The Times last Friday, when he was reported to have been abducted.

On his return to Malta, Galea profusely thanked consul Marisa Farrugia for saving his life. As Galea’s disappearance remains shrouded in mystery, Khaled came to MaltaToday with a complete different story.

According to Khaled – who learned about Galea’s disappearance from the Ambassador – Galea was taken away from his chauffeur-driven car for his own safety. It was not an abduction, Khaled insisted.

“Fighting broke out in Wershafana and they took him from the car to protect him from the fighting,” Khaled got to know.

Khaled told MaltaToday that the Maltese ambassador was crucial in raising the alarm about Galea’s disappearance. The ambassador asked Khaled to help them uncover what had happened to Galea.

Khaled recounted how he contacted a senior military figure, General Ayman al Madani, to intervene to find out Galea’s whereabouts.

“We finally discovered that the militia in the Wershafana area had in fact taken Galea under their protection to protect him from the serious fighting that had broken out,” he said.

According to what has been factually established so far, Galea was travelling with another foreigner when their car was stopped at a roadblock. Asked why the Maltese national was the only one to be taken away, Khaled said the Libyans feared for his life.

“The group who took Galea were questioned by General al Madani and he asked them why they had taken Galea in. They told him they wanted to protect him from the fighting because he was Maltese,” Khaled said.

Asked why it took 12 days to trace him, Khaled said the group who took Galea did not speak any English or Maltese, making communication harder.

Khaled explained how Ambassador Galea was in constant contact with him, requesting information on any new developments. “When Martin Galea was found, I called the ambassador at 4:45am to let him know that he was alive and well.”

In the hours that followed, arrangements were made for Galea to be transferred to the consulate in Tripoli – and the Zintanis escorted him to the consulate.

The Zintani militia is one of the most powerful group in Libya and in control of Tripoli airport.

It is understood that the Zintanis suggested it would be much safer to take Galea across the Tunisian border and into the hands of Maltese diplomats in Tunis. But the Maltese government insisted that they would prefer it if Galea was taken to the Maltese consulate and leave Libya by air from Mitiga airport.

Asked what was the role of Maltese Consul Marisa Farrugia in the whole operation, Khaled repeated several times that Galea returned home thanks to the Ambassador and the Zintanis.

“The Libyans and the Maltese are like one family and I really want to thank the Zintanis and the Libyans who helped in finding Galea,” he added.

Khaled also denied a report in a Libyan newspaper that a ransom had been paid for Galea’s release.

Attempts made yesterday to contact Martin Galea’s wife, Sue Arnett, were unsuccessful while it is understood that Galea is not yet in a position to speak with the media.

The actual facts of what happened during the past 12 days are yet to be divulged to the media. The media has so far been building a picture from bits and pieces of what the government has relayed and information received through trusted sources.

During two media briefings the government held with editors, it constantly referred to “talks” being held with those who had held Galea, and repeatedly refuted the word “negotiations”.

Even when twice asked which militias were involved, both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the principal permanent secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, Mario Cutajar, said the information “had yet to be established”.

Muscat always declared that no ransom had been requested of the Maltese government but also chose his words carefully when replying to the media’s questions.

It was also evident that the government did not have a full picture of what had happened, saying it would be “filling in the blanks” once Galea is debriefed by the Malta Security Service.

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