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Visit of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy to Libya raises controversy

Philosopher, Filmmaker and Activist Bernard-Henri Levy speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 1 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2018 in New York City [Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit]
Philosopher, Filmmaker and Activist Bernard-Henri Levy speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 1 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2018 in New York City [Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit]

Tripoli – (AFP) – French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who contributed significantly to the French decision to intervene in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, sparked controversy after his visit to western Libya on Saturday.

According to local sources, Lévy arrived on a private plane on Saturday to Misrata Airport, about 200 kilometres west of Tripoli.

The programme of the visit, which was published by Libyan mass media and could not be verified, includes meetings between Lévy and several local officials and representatives in Misrata before visiting the city of Tarhuna (west) to investigate mass graves found in the city after the departure of Haftar’s forces, the influential general in eastern Libya.

The programme also includes a meeting between Henry Lévy on Sunday with Fathi Bachagha, Minister of the Interior of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli.

Lévy said, in a brief statement to pro-GNA channel Libya Al-Ahrar, that he came to Libya as a “journalist” for a report for the Wall Street Journal.

READ: Libya government denies connection to controversial French philosopher visit

After supporting opposition fighters in 2011, Henry Lévy became an unwanted figure for many Libyans, especially due to his call for international intervention in 2011, led by France, the UK and the US.

The opposition to his visit by a large part of public opinion in western Libya is also due to the accusations levelled by the GNA towards France regarding its support for Haftar’s attack on Tripoli, which Paris denies.

Likewise, groups loyal to the GNA confirmed on Saturday that they had prevented Lévy’s convoy from entering Tarhuna, located 65 kilometres southeast of Tripoli, and the last stronghold of Haftar in the west. However, Lévy posted a photo of himself on Twitter surrounded by dozens of armed and masked men in uniform, confirming that he was in Tarhuna.

The office of Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the GNA, affirmed that he disavowed Lévy’s visit, and announced in a statement that he had ordered “an investigation into this visit to know all the facts and details surrounding it.”

Al-Sarraj’s office promised to “take deterrent legal measures against everyone who is convicted of being involved or complicit” in organising this visit.

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