Gadhafi Junior's Nightclub Brawl German-Libyan Diplomatic Relations Strained

After Moammar Gadhafi's son got into a punch-up in a Munich nightclub the incident might have been quickly forgotten. But then the Libyan embassy tried to obstruct a German investigation into the matter. Now the affair is puting a strain on relations between Berlin and Tripoli.

By Carsten Holm

Libya's revolutionary leader Moammar Gadhafi has a few problem sons. One son's brawl in a Munich nightclub is causing strained relations with Berlin.

Libya's revolutionary leader Moammar Gadhafi has a few problem sons. One son's brawl in a Munich nightclub is causing strained relations with Berlin.

Libya's 64-year-old revolutionary leader Moammar Gadhafi is used to one or other of his many sons hitting the international headlines every now and then. Unfortunately pleasant news -- like that of his 36-year-old eldest son, also called Moammar, obtaining a Ph.D. in engineering from a Liverpool university -- tends to be the exception.

His 34-year-old son Saadi, a member of Libya’s national soccer team, attracted attention mainly for a lack of any discernable footballing talent, parties in St. Tropez and his penchant for fast cars. Other members of the eccentric Gaddafi family are even more out of line. Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, also 34 years old, took two tigers with him when he went to study in Vienna -- and went on to become a party hero in Munich. And 29-year-old Hannibal was given a four-month suspended sentence in Paris in 2005 for beating his pregnant girlfriend in a luxury hotel to the point that she needed to be hospitalized.

Not much had been heard of another Gadhafi son, 25-year-old Seif al-Arab -- that is until now. Hardly anyone took much notice of his luxurious student lifestyle in Munich. All that was known about him was that he enjoyed night-time drives in a Hummer registered to the Libyan embassy.

But now an incident at Munich’s "4004" nightclub, involving Seif al-Arab and an attractive female companion, is occupying state prosecutors and the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. The case, which began with a small scuffle, has turned into a strain on German-Libyan relations.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, 2006, Gadhafi’s son and his companion were frolicking to dancefloor classics at the Munich hotspot. It wasn't until after midnight that the commotion took place.

That was when Seif al-Arab’s girlfriend started dancing in front of him. First the other clubbers simply stared in astonishment as she began to remove one item of clothing after another. Then they started to complain. Whether the cause was a drunken lack of inhibitions or night-time exhibitionism: The pretty young woman was not prepared to keep her clothes on, despite one bouncer’s repeated warnings. "It was like a peep show," says one investigator.

"Like a strip show"

Her lascivious performance may not have been in keeping with local custom -- but what came next certainly was. The disco’s security personnel applied the highest penalty, the one most feared by those who frequent celebrity discos. Seif al-Arab’s friend was given the red card and she was shown the door.

But Seif al-Arab wasn’t prepared to accept the sending off and a punch-up between himself and a 19-year-old bouncer broke out. The police were called at about 01:00 a.m. Both the bouncer and Seif al-Arab had suffered minor injuries -- the Libyan president’s son was left with a cut on his head. Preliminary proceedings by Munich’s public prosecutor were later dropped. It was argued that continuing the proceedings was not in the public interest, since both parties had been injured equally and not seriously, and only those present had been affected by the violation of law and order.

The minor scrape with the law would long since have been forgotten if the police hadn’t been tipped off about the possibility that Seif al-Arab was planning revenge -- and if the Libyan embassy hadn’t tried to outsmart the German justice system.

The investigators claim to have learned that Tripoli's presidential son had allegedly mentioned that he was considering throwing acid in the face of the young bouncer. Prosecutors don't want to say whether he planned to do so by himself or was thinking of recruiting help, and whether or not he issued an actual threat or had even started preparing such a serious attack. It would only confirm that the suspicion of such a crime was being "investigated." Seif al-Arab could not be reached for comment.

Gadhafi’s son then got the Libyan embassy involved. The diplomats soon realized that Seif al-Arab enjoyed no particular protection from the German authorities. Of course he carried a diplomatic passport -- but in this case it was worthless. Seif al-Arab had no accreditation from the German Foreign Ministry -- and so he enjoyed no diplomatic immunity.

With the catastrophe of a spectacular criminal investigation looming, the Libyans tried to make up for their lapse. In January, they asked the Foreign Ministry to place Gadhafi’s son on its list of accredited diplomats. But the Foreign Ministry saw through the trick, and the application was rejected in March. The Libyans refuse to comment.

In such cases, the rules of the diplomatic ping-pong game require a swift reaction. One German diplomat says he wouldn’t have been surprised "if the Libyans had announced that an employee at our embassy in Tripoli had become persona non grata -- because he’s suspected of espionage, or something like that."

Berlin’s Foreign Ministry has been closely monitoring the Libyan reaction, and it was glad to see that no such measure has been implemented so far. But Seif al-Arab doesn’t need to fear his German prosecutors anyhow. His location is unknown to the authorities -- he’s thought to be abroad.


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