Dundee University has defended receiving more than £800,000 from the Libyan government over the last three years. The money paid for dozens of students to embark on a variety of courses, from dentistry to environmental modelling. The university insisted its relationship was with individual students rather than with the regime in Tripoli. An uprising against Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has been under way for months, supported by the UK and other western nations. However, prior to the rebellion the UK Government had been fostering links with Tripoli and encouraging companies to do business there. The British Council, a cultural organisation, had also been assisting Libyans wishing to study here, although its operations in the country are now suspended. An inquiry under freedom of information laws found Dundee University had accepted 35 Libyan students between 2008-09 and 2010-11. State sponsorship for students going abroad is common practice in many countries. In Dundee University's case, it received just over £800,000 from the Libyan government or its embassy. Strathclyde University received around £1.7m over the same period. Tory MP Robert Halfon has called for an inquiry into academic involvement in Libya, and Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said both universities should take "urgent steps" to assure the public. A Dundee University spokesman said, "This is funding which has supported students coming here to study a variety of postgraduate and professional programmes, including dentistry and at the centre for energy, petroleum and mineral law and policy. "Libyan students, as with those from other countries over this period, were entitled to come and study in Scotland provided they met the key criteria of being academically qualified for the course, having the necessary funding to support their studies and that they been had granted an educational visa by the UK Government to come and study in this country. "It is the UK Border Agency who ultimately decide if students should be allowed to come to the UK by issuing them a visa. "We have students from over 100 countries at Dundee, all subject to the same criteria." The spokesman said it was too soon to say if any more Libyan students would be arriving next term. "Whether the visa application process is affected by the current diplomatic situation between the UK and Libya would be for the government to decide," he said.
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
Former Justice Secretary says Scottish Government ‘tried to win more powers as part of Lockerbie agreement’
The Scottish Government tried to secure more powers for Holyrood as part of a controversial prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said. Mr MacAskill, who sparked an international outcry when he released the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing on compassionate grounds, said while SNP ministers had been "powerless" to stop the deal being signed in 2007, they had tried to win concessions from the then Labour government at Westminster. The Scottish Government unsuccessfully pushed for powers over air weapons to be devolved to Holyrood, Mr MacAskill said, as well as for compensation for "slopping out" in prisons, with legal actions from convicts over the practice costing ministers in Edinburgh millions of pounds. But he said no compensation was paid and responsibility for regulating air weapons was only transferred to Holyrood as part of the 2012 Scotland Act, prompting Mr MacAskill to say the Scottish Government "got nothing" out of the deal between the UK and Libya. Mr MacAskill, who has written a book about the Lockerbie bombing, also accused the UK and US administrations of "unbridled hypocrisy" for criticising his decisions on Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi at the same time as they dealt with the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. The former Justice Secretary, who stood down from Holyrood in May, said the Lockerbie bombing was "state-sponsored terrorism by several states, by Libya in particular", with Gaddafi "the main man" in this while Megrahi was a "simple foot soldier in the service of the Libyan state". He told BBC Radio Scotland: "I met Megrahi briefly, he was a foot soldier. (US) President Obama a few weeks before I released Megrahi met and shook hands with Colonel Gaddafi. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown embraced Colonel Gaddafi. "If you are going to look at culpability let's look at those who dealt with the main man as opposed to those who dealt with a simple foot soldier in the service of the Libyan state." While he said he accepted why some families had wanted Megrahi, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer while in prison in Scotland, to die in jail, he said someone "irrespective of what they've done has a right to die with some dignity". Defending the release of Megrahi in 2009, Mr MacAskill told the Good Morning Scotland programme: "Their family has committed no offence and they should in the last moments be able to interact with them. That should apply whether you've been a heinous murderer or a saint." He wrote the book The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search For Justice because there is a "huge desire not just in Scotland but around the world for some answers to what happened and why with regard to Lockerbie". While Mr MacAskill said he has "no doubt I made many mistakes", he added: "I believe all those in Scotland, whether police, prosecution or the courts, acted diligently and with integrity. But what happened was a world out there, especially countries such as the USA and the UK, acted shamefully. "It suited them to pillory myself in Scotland at the same time as they were conniving with Colonel Gaddafi, when they had been involved in shoring him up before they tore him down with spectacular consequences." He accused the former Labour government at Westminster of agreeing the prisoner transfer deal with Libya "for the benefits of BP", which went on to sign an oil exploration agreement with the Libyan government. Mr MacAskill claimed: "At the time when the British were driving through a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, predicated on getting Megrahi back because they were doing a deal with British Petroleum, we made requests for some compensation and for powers that were held by Westminster at that time. "They were refused by the British government, they didn't give them to us. We had no powers to stop it but ultimately I declined to grant the prisoner application." He continued: "We were powerless in all this because we couldn't stop the prisoner transfer agreement being signed because that was between the United Kingdom and Libya. Equally when the prisoner transfer agreement had been signed it was within my power to refuse it, which I did. "We asked if the British government would compensate us for slopping out in Scottish prisons and indeed would take action to give us powers over air weapons. "It was refused, the powers have now subsequently been devolved but we were never compensated as such, so the Scottish Government got nothing out of this." Megrahi died in Libya in 2012, three years after he was released from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds. He remains the only person ever convicted for the 1988 atrocity in which 270 people died when a Pan Am flight on its way from London to New York exploded above Lockerbie, killing everyone on board and 11 people on the ground. In October 2015, Scottish prosecutors revealed they want two Libyans they have identified as suspects in the case to be interviewed by police.
Britain is expected to issue a formal apology to a Libyan dissident who was kidnapped and tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces after an alleged tip-off from UK intelligence.Abdel Hakim Belhaj, 52, and his wife Fatima Boudchar allege they were returned to Gaddafi’s brutal regime in 2004 through a joint M16-CIA operation linked to Tony Blair’s infamous “deal in the desert” with the Libyan dictator.Attorney General Jeremy Wright is expected to announce the settlement of Mr Belhaj’s long-running claim for compensation when he delivers the apology in a statement to MPs in the House of Commons.Ms Boudchar, who was five months pregnant when she and her husband were taken to Libya, will attend Parliament with her son Abderrahim for the announcement.Her husband, now a politician in Libya, is scheduled to hold a press conference in Istanbul shortly afterwards.Mr Belhaj was leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, part of the Islamist opposition to Gaddafi who were branded terrorists by the dictator. He fled the country in 2001 and evaded Gaddafi’s agents until his arrest three years later in Thailand.He spent six years in jail in his native country before Gaddafi fell from power in the Arab Spring of 2011 and claims he was tortured throughout his incarceration. He claims he was questioned by British intelligence officers while in detention.Ms Boudchar was released just before she gave birth. Their kidnap in Thailand and rendition to Libya occurred two weeks before then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the north African state to meet Gaddafi.The meeting, in Gaddafi’s desert tent, marked a dramatic restoration of ties with the former pariah state following Tripoli’s announcement that it was giving up its weapons of mass destruction programmes and joining the fight against al-Qaida. Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell simultaneously announced a deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.Mr Belhaj and his wife have been suing the British government, former foreign secretary Jack Straw, and former head of counter-terrorism at M16 Sir Mark Allen.They claim MI6 provide key intelligence on their movements which led to their capture and rendition by the US to Libya.Documents found in the abandoned British embassy and regime offices following the violent overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011 revealed details of UK intelligence links with Libya.They included a faxed letter from Sir Mark in which he congratulated Gaddafi’s intelligence chief Moussa Koussa on the “safe arrival” of Mr Belhaj, saying that it was “the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years”.Another Libyan dissident, Sami al-Saadi, who was returned to Tripoli from Hong Kong in a joint British-Libyan operation and jailed for six years, accepted a settlement of £2.2 million in 2012 from the UK government.But Mr Belhaj has always said that he will drop their case for an apology and an admission of liability by the British government and a nominal sum of £3 – amounting to £1 from each of the defendants in the civil action.
Scottish police investigating the Lockerbie bombing are to visit Libya. David Cameron announced that officers from the Dumfries and Galloway force had been granted permission to visit the country at a joint press conference in Tripoli with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan. The Prime Minister said: “I am delighted that the Dumfries and Galloway Policeteam will be able to visit your country to look into the issues around theLockerbie bombing.” The officers are expected to travel to Libya in March. It will be the first time police have been allowed to visit as part of the probe. The move follows months of behind-the-scenes talks. Mr Cameron pointed out that police investigating the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher had been able to come toTripoli three times since the revolution. That would have been “unthinkable” when Muammar Gaddafi was in power, he added. On December 21 1988, 270 people were killed when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. In 2001, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of mass murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released eight years later on compassionate grounds and he died in May last year. In December last year the Libyan administration said it was preparing to release all files relating to the bombing. A formal request was sent to the Libyan government requesting access to the country for police and prosecutors involved in the bombing, in February last year. A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said: “It’s the first time since the fall of the previous Libyan regime that officers will have the opportunity to make further inquiries in the country.” The bombing of the plane, travelling from London to New York four days before Christmas, killed all 259 people on board. Eleven residents of the Dumfries and Galloway town also died after it crashed down on homes in Britain’s biggest terrorist atrocity. After protracted international pressure, Megrahi was put on trial under Scots law at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. He was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars. Despite claims that he could not have worked alone, and the lingering suspicion by some that he was innocent, Megrahi was the only man ever convicted over the attack. He was freed from prison having served nearly eight years of his sentence after he dropped his second appeal against conviction at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and died in May last year at his home in Tripoli, aged 59. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to allow him to return home to Libya to die sparked international condemnation from some relatives of victims and politicians, who had demanded he be returned to jail. Scotland’s top law officer the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, and the Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, Pat Shearer, met UK families of the Lockerbie victims in London last year after the formal request was sent to Libya to access the country. The Libyan National Transitional Council had previously confirmed to the UK Government that it would assist the ongoing criminal investigation.
Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.
‘This is how we get repaid’ Fife war heroes among those buried in desecrated British Military Cemetery in Benghazi
The graves of Black Watch soldiers from Fife could be among those damaged by Libyans who desecrated the final resting place of hundreds of British war dead. A group of Libyans kicked over and smashed nearly 200 headstones and attacked a cross of remembrance with a sledgehammer at Benghazi War Cemetery last week. They also damaged graves at Benghazi British Military Cemetery, just a mile away. An Italian cemetery was also targeted. More than 1,000 servicemen are buried at Benghazi War Cemetery, including several Black Watch soldiers from Fife. Corporal Thomas Brady (23), from Kirkcaldy, warrant officer James Pratt (26), from Anstruther, and Sergeant William Anderson (27), of Dunfermline, were among 17 troops killed on December 13 1942 and buried in the cemetery. Last year Libyan rebels were liberated with help from the RAF as they fought Colonel Gadaffi's forces in the north. However, that recent history has not spared the war graves from desecration. Libyans filmed themselves knocking over the headstones and posted the video online. The vandals do not cover their faces and can be hear referring to ''Christian dogs''. They also targeted a Jewish headstone which featured the Star of David. Rob Scott, chairman of the Fife branch of The Black Watch Association, said: ''It's shocking. It wasn't that long ago that we were helping them out and this is how we get repaid. ''We have people out there tending these graves but they are not soldiers. We just have to hope that people have the decency to leave the graves alone in the future.'' The Libyan authorities have detained several people in connection with the incident but it is not known what the motivation was for the attack although it is suspected it may be a reprisal after US troops burned copies of the Koran at a NATO base in Afghanistan. Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) has condemned the incident. In a statement on its website it stated: ''The NTC severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators according to Libyan law.'' A statement on the Commonwealth Graves Commission website said all of the graves would be repaired. A spokesman added that they do not yet have a list of which headstones had been damaged.
The Courier's week begins with discussion of Gaelic teaching in schools, the beginnings of the universe, the ecological importance of beavers and Western intervention in Libya. Gaelic teaching funded by willing taxpayers Sir, R. H. L. Mulheron's letter about Gaelic teaching (April 21) contradicts itself, and in doing so, shows a lack of understanding of the word curriculum. On the one hand, he wants education in Scotland to broaden its curriculum in accordance with Scotland competing in a global market. But, on the other hand, he seems to be against the promotion of Gaelic teaching in schools, as he thinks we "can't afford it." The teaching of Gaelic is a broadening of education's curriculum. Gaelic-medium pupils and pupils who learn Gaelic at school through the medium of English also receive the same subjects that other pupils do. This is a broadening of the defined and prescribed course of studies to which the word curriculum relates. The amount spent on Gaelic teaching in schools is commensurate with demand and not disproportionate to the amount of tax which is paid by those who desire Gaelic education for their children. Steven Ritchie.Sasaig,An Teanga,Isle of Skye. Weaknesses in evolution theory Sir, Nigel Austin (April 20) claims that "most rational-thinking people would take issue" with my alleged assertion "that the evolutionary argument for our existence is no further forward now than what it was in 1961." I said nothing of the kind. I was talking about the creation of the universe, not evolution. Evolution? Of course scientists have made great progress in the study of how the world and the creatures on it, including mankind, evolved from the earliest beginnings of the universe. Unlike Mr Austin, most rational-thinking people would agree that scientists have still not come up with a satisfactory answer to the problem of how the universe began. Big Bang? Some chemical interaction? A mysterious collision of heavenly bodies? Nothing of the kind can occur unless there was something there already. And where did that matter come from? Ghost, ghoul and goblin theories is what Nigel Austin calls the Christian interpretation of evolution. The same could well be applied to modern scientists' far-fetched attempts at explaining how it all began. George K. McMillan.5 Mount Tabor Avenue,Perth. Beavers bring benefits Sir, Your correspondent Martin Stansfeld's theory that indigenous European beavers have arrived in Tayside because people want to "wild their pets" is wide of the mark. As it happens, this population began with five escapes from a wildlife park in 2001 and 2003. Those of us who have beavers in large enclosures keep them for specifically ecological reasons. They are not pets. We do not feed them or handle them in any way. They live as in the wild and are there to create and maintain wetland habitat on our land, which they are doing very successfully. This kind of habitat has been greatly reduced by mankind over hundreds of years by drainage and hunting out of native beavers and recreating it has direct positive implications for freshwater productivity (including salmon) and habitat for owls, woodpeckers and water voles, among many others. Beaver dams also purify water and mitigate both floods and droughts. Eric McVicar clearly issued some accurate warnings in the past but he has got this one wrong. Louise Ramsay.Bamff,Alyth. Wool threat to wild birds Sir, I read with interest your recent article about the RSPB calling for wool scraps and other materials to be put out for use as birds' nesting materials. In my view, wool strands should be cut into very small pieces. Long strands catch and bind round chicks and adults legs and feet and have been known to cut off the circulation, causing loss of legs and feet and disabling the birds and causing death. It is sad to see birds with disabled feet when it is easy to cut wool to safe lengths, which would be very welcome to birds. Margaret J. Webb.2 Castle Terrace,Broughty Ferry. Energy grab plan for Libya Sir, Why are we killing Libyans? Why can we not stay out of others' internal affairs? Libya's neighbour Egypt has a large well-equipped army and, if it wished, it could end the fighting in one day by separating the warring factions. But that does not seem to be part of the plan. I predict that we will install a puppet government then stage a rigged election where the puppet government will denationalise the Libyan oil fields. So, like our oil, it will be foreign owned by international companies. Take a look at Scotland. Where was the wealth that coal and oil brought the British Government? Where has it been spent? Certainly not in the mining areas. And what of the oil wealth? A few office buildings in Aberdeen but across the rest of Scotland, plywood shutters adorn our high streets. Our oil wealth has been squandered by Westminster on wars and foreign aid. It is time we took a leaf out of the Swiss book on democracy no wars and no major change without a referendum. John Phimister.63 St Clair Street,Kirkcaldy. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to email@example.com or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.
Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been freed after being abducted by gunmen at dawn, the state news agency says. Government Spokesman Mohammed Kaabar told the agency, LANA, that Mr Zeidan has been "set free" and was on his way to his office. The brief report gave no further information. Details were sketchy but it appeared Libyan forces had intervened and that the abductors did not free him voluntarily. Hours earlier, Mr Zeidan was snatched by gunmen before dawn from a Tripoli hotel where he lives. The abduction appeared to be in retaliation for the US special forces' raid over the weekend that seized a Libyan al Qaida suspect from the streets of the capital.
Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has been kidnapped by gunmen from a hotel in Tripoli where he resides, officials said. The abduction comes amid anger among Libya's powerful Islamic militant groups over the US special forces raid on Saturday that seized a Libyan al Qaida suspect, known as Abu Anas al-Libi. Several groups accused the government of colluding in or allowing the raid, although the government denied having any prior knowledge of the operation. Hours before the abduction, Mr Zeidan met al-Libi's family. A government official said gunmen broke into the luxury hotel in Tripoli centre and abducted Mr Zeidan and two of his guards.