Unionists and victims campaigners reacted with fury today after it emerged two police officers from Northern Ireland have been seconded to Libya to help train its force.
There was disbelief this morning as details emerged of visits by two senior officers to Tripoli within the past year to help train police in forensics.
According to the BBC, the officers are seconded to the UK's National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).
As part of this, it is understood a chief inspector spent a number of days in Libya last November to assess training needs. Based on his recommendations, an inspector was part of a tactical command course earlier this year.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said an officer was in Libya this year at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She told the Belfast Telegraph he is no longer there.
“A request was made to the NPIA from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a specifically skilled officer,” she said.
Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, seated behind bulletproof glass, observes a military parade in Green Square, Tripoli, Libya earlier this month
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“A decision was taken to support this request. As is the case with most other police services in the UK, we currently have a number of PSNI officers seconded to the National Policing Improvement Agency. There are agreed statutory processes on the international deployment of all police officers.”
The news sparked anger among a group of victims campaigners who are currently attempting the seek compensation from the Libyan authorities after they supplied the IRA with guns and ammunitions to carry out its campaign of terror.
William Frazer, of victims' group FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives), said: “I am that shocked by this I am finding it hard to take in. A lot of people are very unhappy about it, especially police officers, some of whom have been ringing today to voice their anger and upset.”
Mr Frazer is one of a group joining a cross-party delegation travelling to Libya next month seeking compensation for IRA victims .
“You couldn't write the script for this, and if you did it would be Monty Python. Here we have the police out training the people who trained the IRA and supplied the weapons to murder their colleagues, it’s just unbelievable.”
Policing Board members also reacted with fury to the news which they first heard through the BBC.
Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea, a member of the Policing Board, said he was shocked: “There was an issue around a shortage of police personnel. “These things should be considered in an open and transparent way, I do not think we can afford to lose officer.”
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “This is totally inappropriate and offensive that PSNI officers were selected to provide training given the very recent history of what the Libyans have done in terms of the annals of terrorism in Northern Ireland.
“Until this matter of compensation and Libyan redress towards the victims is addressed, then this is an area that needs to be put on hold and the officers who are there should be withdrawn.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “PSNI officers unite with Libyans in policing, DUP unite with IRA/Sinn Fein in government.
“Where is the distinction which warrants DUP politicians, of all people, jumping up and down about the PSNI’s shameful association with those inextricably linked with past practitioners of terrorism?
“If it is wrong to sanitise Libya, as the suppliers of weapons of death, and it is, then it is at least equally wrong to handhold the users of those same weapons in government. Hence, much of what we are hearing from the DUP on this issue is cant and hypocrisy.”