Libya Opposition Leaders

17 May 2011

Six key figures leading Benghazi’s rebel administration, the National Transitional Council: Mahmoud Jibril; Mustafa Abdul Jalil; Abdul Hafiz Ghoga; Omar Mokhtar el-Hariri; Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi; and Ali Abdussalam Tarhouni

Mahmoud Jibril

Position Interim prime minister

Biography Mahmoud Jibril heads the interim government, the executive arm of Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council. Prior to joining the opposition movement, he led the National Economic Development Board under the Qaddafi regime, promoting privatisation and liberalisation policies. In the past, he has run management and administration programmes for senior bureaucrats in Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco and Tunisia. Jibril taught strategic planning at the University of Pittsburgh in the US. He graduated from Egypt’s Cairo University with a degree in economics and political science, and has a master’s in political science and a doctorate in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburgh. In March, Jibril met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Paris to discuss ways to depose Qaddafi.

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Mustafa Abdul Jalil

Position Chairman, National Transitional Council

Biography Mustafa Abdul Jalil is the chairman of the provisional government’s legislative body, the National Transitional Council. Under Qaddafi, he served as minister of justice. His position in the National Transitional Council is questioned by some due to his prominent role in the Qaddafi regime. Jalil graduated from the department of sharia law at Libya University’s Arabic Language and Islamic Studies faculty in 1975 and became a judge in 1978. He was appointed justice minister in 2007. In 2010, he resigned live on national television over the Qaddafi government’s failure to release political prisoners, but his resignation was rejected. At the time, Human Rights Watch praised the way Jalil had “taken a strong stance against arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention without trial.” He defected to the rebels in February, when he was sent to Benghazi to negotiate the release of hostages.

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Abdul Hafiz Ghoga

Position Vice-chairman and spokesman, National Transitional Council

Biography Abdul Hafiz Ghoga is the vice chairman and spokesperson of the National Transitional Council. Prior to his involvement in the rebel movement, Ghoga worked as a human rights lawyer and community organiser. He represented the families of inmates killed in the 1996 massacre at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, in which some 1,200 prisoners were butchered, according to Human Rights Watch. A former president of the Libyan Bar Association, he was arrested in February shortly after the anti-government protests began, but was released a few days later. Before joining the National Transitional Council, he declared himself spokesman of a rival interim council. In March, he claimed Qaddafi had killed more than 8,000 people opposed to his rule. Ghoga is a strong proponent of a unified country, rejecting the idea of secession from Qaddafi-controlled Libya.

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Omar Mokhtar el-Hariri

Position Defence minister

Biography Omar Mokhtar el-Hariri has been designated minister of military affairs for the rebel’s interim government. As such, he is the nominal head of the Free Libyan Army. El-Hariri was involved in the 1969 coup against King Idris that abolished the monarchy and ushered in Qaddafi’s 42-year reign. In 1975, he organised an attempt to overthrow Qaddafi. When the plot failed, he was sentenced to death, alongside 21 co-conspirators. He was incarcerated for 15 years, awaiting execution, and spent more than four years in solitary confinement. In 1990, Qaddafi unexpectedly commuted his sentence and he was put under house arrest in the eastern city of Tobruk. He was freed when the Qaddafi regime lost control of the city during the uprising against the dictator. Hariri is from the Farjan tribe, which is based in western Libya and has a strong presence in and around the Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte.

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Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi

Position Foreign minister

Biography Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi is the interim government’s foreign affairs minister. From 2007, he served in the Qaddafi regime as secretary of the General People’s Committee of Libya (GPCO) for economy, trade and investment, becoming the youngest minister to hold this role. The GPCO was an important political body in Libya. While executive and legislative power lay, in theory, with the General People’s Congress (GPC), most important decisions were delegated either to the GPCO or to the GPC secretary general Qaddafi. Prior to taking on the ministerial position, he founded the Centre for Export Development in 2006 and became its first director general. A year earlier, he was appointed general for the Ownership Expansion Programme, a privatisation fund. To assume this role, he left Qaddafi’s foreign ministry, where he had begun his political career as a staff member, before becoming a diplomat.

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Ali Abdussalam Tarhouni

Position Finance minister

Biography Ali Abdussalam Tarhouni has been appointed to Libya’s National Transitional Council as finance minister. He left his senior lecturer’s position in the US at the University of Washington’s Michael G Foster School of Business, where he had been teaching since 1985, to assume the role, following more than 35 years in exile. Tarhouni started studying economics at the University of Libya, but fled the country after being expelled from the university for participating in a student movement calling for democracy and greater freedoms. He was stripped of his citizenship, sentenced to death in absentia and put on a government hit list in 1981. After immigrating to the US, Tarhouni earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Michigan State University. Tarhouni’s appointment to the National Transitional Council was made to enhance its standing among Western powers and he has acted as a spokesman for the rebel movement.

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