By Yasmine Ryan
March 19th, 2011.
Muammar Gaddafi has sent a top diplomat to Tunisia in what was supposed to be a secret visit.
Ali Treki, Libya's former foreign minister, is staying at the same hotel where Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, is booked when he arrives on Tuesday.
When Nazanine Moshiri, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tunisia, uncovered Ali Treki's visit to Tunis, the Libyan diplomat responded with a burst of rage.
Treki, who was president of the UN General Assembly until September, berated the Al Jazeera team when they filmed him in the lobby of the Regency Hotel in Gammarth, a suburb north of Tunis, on Saturday afternoon.
"You animal, stop shooting," Treki told Samir Gharbiah, Al Jazeera's cameraman, as his security personnel attempted to block Al Jazeera from filming.
Security staff at the hotel, at the request of Treki, tried to destroy Al Jazeera's camera, and to confiscate the footage of Treki. They manhandled Gharbiah and producer Youssef Gaigi, pushing them out into the hotel carpark.
They refused to allow the Al Jazeera team to leave and physically prevented Moshiri from getting in the car, holding the journalists captive in the parking lot for nearly an hour.
It was only after the Tunisian police intervened that Moshiri and her team were freed, tapes in hand. The hotel’s manager apologised and tried to insist that no mention be made of the Regency in any reports about the incident, saying that it dampen the UN Secretary-General’s willingness to stay at the hotel during his coming visit.
Gaigi said the hotel manager’s change of stance came only after Al Jazeera had contacted the interior ministry.
"I believe he was under pressure from different people." Gaigi said.
Word had already spread on Twitter, and around 30 Libyan protesters arrived to demonstrate against the hotel's treatment of the journalists.
Apparently backing away from its support for Treki once the protesters arrived, the hotel permitted the protesters to raise the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag that has been adopted by the Libyan opposition.
Gaddafi appointed Treki as his UN envoy on March 4, after Libya's previous representatives to the UN, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shelgham, and Ibrahim Dabbashi, distanced themselves from Gaddafi and played an instrumental role in passing Resolution 1970.
The US refused to allow Treki to travel to New York to take up the post. Treki must present himself in person to the Secretary-General in order to be accredited as his country's new ambassador.
In the meantime, Gaddafi has no representative at the UN, meaning he has no legal way to lobby support against block any resolutions concerning Libya.