I have been off work for much of the summer enjoying the birth of my son.
During that time there have been developments in a couple of stories that I’d like to pick up on.
1. Former Islamist Maajid Nawaz has been selected by the Liberal Democrats as a candidate for the next British general election. You can read my interview with him here.
2. As I reported in June, Ibrahim Bah, the man who managed the guns and diamonds pipeline between former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and a rebel army of child soldiers in neighbouring Sierra Leone, was arrested in Freetown. He is no longer in the custody of Sierra Leonean authorities, who claim they deported him to his native Senegal.
Sierra Leon’s Attorney General Frank Kargbo told the BBC Bah was deported because it was “for the best interests of the country” and because Sierre Leone did not have enough evidence to successfully prosecute him.
Last year the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, terrorism, and conscripting child soldiers. It concluded Bah was a “trusted emissary” for both Taylor and the rebel Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone. Bah had been on a United Nations Travel ban since 2004.
The official story from Sierre Leone strains credibility. Senegalese authorities deny that Bah was sent to their country. Bah was supposedly deported even though he due in court to face charges in a private case brought against him. The complainant, from a diamond-rich area of Sierra Leone, alleged he was kidnapped and assaulted by Bah during the civil war. Kargbo claims he was unaware of this case.
A source who once knew Bah extremely well told Maclean’s he suspects that Bah is now in Burkina Faso, but can not confirm this.
3. One morning in 2005, I climbed the many steps leading to the cliff-top monastery of Deir Mar Musa, north of Damascus, and was greeted by Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who immediately asked, “How long will you be staying with us?” The answer was an afternoon, but I don’t think the hospitality would have been any less had I told him several months.
Dall’Oglio, ordained in the Syriac Catholic rite, had established an ecumenical retreat at the ancient monastery decades earlier. The place had an almost kibbutz-like feel. Anyone was welcome. Those who stayed were expected to work. When I was there residents were busy processing olives and preparing an eggplant spread.
When the uprising in Syria began, Dall’Oglio spoke out in favour of a democratic transition and met with opposition activists. He was expelled by the government of Bashar al-Assad but returned this summer to rebel-held territory in northern Syria. In July he was kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels. There are conflicting reports about his fate. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed he had been murdered by his captors but today suggested he may still be alive.