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Libya rebels show off prize prisoner

In a surreal spectacle, they display Omar Ahmed Sodani, who was named as a suspect in the 1984 shooting of a London policewoman. He calls it a case of mistaken identity.

March 23, 2011|By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Benghazi, Libya — In a surreal spectacle, they bring out Omar Ahmed Sodani, a former employee of the Libyan Embassy in London who was named as a suspect in the 1984 shooting of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher in 1984. The man calls it a case of mistaken identity.

During a surreal spectacle reminiscent of organized tours for busloads of journalists in Tripoli, opposition figures in Benghazi displaying recently captured prisoners saved their prize catch for the end.

Two young gunmen hauled out a stout, bearded black man in a green overcoat.

This, they announced, was Omar Ahmed Sodani, a former employee of the Libyan Embassy in London named in the British media as a suspect in the shooting of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher from an embassy window during an anti-Kadafi demonstration in 1984.

Sodani was detained during the roundup of accused Kadafi loyalists in Benghazi, said opposition volunteer Khaled Ben Ali. He said Sodani was a top internal security operative who was assigned to run the main hospital in Benghazi before the Kadafi regime was toppled here.

According to British newspapers, Sodani is a London-trained physician.

As reporters crowded around him in a prison courtyard, shouting questions, Sodani protested that he had not served the Kadafi regime. He said he was merely a medical professor at a local university. He worked at the hospital and served the internal security police as a low-level "communications" specialist.

Sodani spoke in a hoarse whisper in Arabic and lightly accented English. He pleaded for understanding and spoke vaguely of mistaken identity.

He said he was in police custody in London when the policewoman was shot. He was later released and he returned to Libya, he said.

When a reporter asked about sores on his wrists, Sodani shrugged and said he had not been mistreated.

Ben Ali was unmoved. "We know who you are and what you did," he told Sodani.

Asked how he could be so certain that Sodani had killed the policewoman, Ben Ali answered: "We know. Believe me, we know."

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