Gaddafi charity stops championing reform
Tripoli - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's second son Seif al-Islam has said his charity will no longer champion the cause of domestic reform but instead focus on aid to sub-Saharan Africa.
"The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation announced today that it will no longer include advocacy for political and human rights reform among its activities," said a statement released late on Wednesday.
The foundation would "instead (be) redoubling efforts to fulfill its core charitable mission of delivering aid and relief to disadvantaged populations, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa," the statement added.
The announcement marks a sharp change of tack for the foundation which since its creation in 1997 had made a name for its vocal campaigning for opening up Libya's political system and heavily state-controlled economy, and for its annual reports on the regime's human rights record.
Seif al-Islam defended the change in the statement. "I am confident that this shift will allow us to direct our efforts in the most important areas in which we work, improving people's lives in some of the poorest areas on Earth," he said.
The foundation's announcement followed a two-day meeting of its board of trustees in London which wrapped up on Wednesday.
Ahead of the meeting, the foundation issued its latest human rights report on Sunday in which it noted "significant progress on some issues and new failures on others", but generally adopted a far less critical tone of Libya's human rights record than in previous years.
Seif al-Islam's advocacy of reform had faced a mounting backlash from conservatives.
Last month, the Internal Security Agency briefly held 20 journalists working for titles owned by the Al-Ghad publishing company he sponsors before they were released on direct orders from his all-powerful father.
The titles, which are Libya's only media not directly controlled by the state, had made a reputation over the past three years for covering a raft of sensitive issues, including corruption, human rights and the Islamist opposition.
The Gaddafi Foundation said its trustees had also criticised its campaigning on some international issues which had sparked controversy in Israel and the United States.
It singled out the controversial release on compassionate grounds last year of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people, and efforts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
"The board of trustees voiced concern that some of the positions taken by the foundation in the recent past, like advocating for the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from incarceration in Scotland and the delivery of aid to Gaza by the ship Amal, had taken on political overtones," the statement said.
"Particularly during the efforts to break the siege of Gaza, some members of the board noted that they were subject to criticism by supporters of Israel over the foundation's activities."