Defiant and angry, captured Libyan spy chief Bouzaid Dorda denied any wrongdoing when he was presented to Reuters reporters on Sunday by the former rebels who tracked him down in the capital Tripoli the previous day.
The latest high-profile insider of Muammar Qaddafi’s rule to be arrested, Bouzaid Dorda proved unapologetic about his role as head of the External Security Organization (ESO) and suggested he was not ready to criticize the ousted autocrat just to please Libya’s new rulers.
And in heated exchanges at the private house where he was being held, he suggested the men who arrested him in the capital on Saturday had no right to the moral high ground.
“People have died from the two sides,” he shot back at a former fighter who remarked that many had died in the near seven-month-old Libyan conflict.
“You had two parties, one of them was an existing regime and the other was the people who rebelled against it and that’s the truth.”
As half a dozen men cradling assault rifles and wearing battle fatigues looked on, another fighter reminded him that he had served in several senior jobs for the ousted leader.
His voice echoing around the ground floor of the private house where he was being held, Dorda shouted: “I did not deny assuming any official post. Did I deny it? Did I deny it? Did I deny it? I was carrying out my duties.”
A Reuters team visited the house in the capital’s Zenata district where Dorda, a former prime minister and parliament speaker, was held by members of a unit of anti-Qaddafi fighters.
His captors had wanted to present Dorda to the media to prove their claim to have captured him.
As exchanges between him and his captors grew heated, any hopes of an interview faded.
Dorda said he was so angry about his questioning by his captors that he was not willing to address the media directly.
Reuters had hoped to ask him to explain why he took the risk of staying on in Tripoli three weeks after its fall. His captors said they did not know why he had stayed in the city. They said they had intercepted phone calls between him and members of Qaddafi’s family who had fled to the desert.
A tall, lanky figure, Dorda was sitting on a sofa and was not handcuffed or physically restrained, although an armed guard sat beside him. Mustachioed and bespectacled, he wore khaki cargo trousers, a shirt with a safari jacket and leather slip-on shoes.
His capture in the capital has triggered rumors in rebel ranks that Qaddafi, or at least some very senior aides, remain at large in the capital or its environs to try to rally a counter-revolution.
If Dorda knows anything about that, he was not saying.
Dorda is known as a technocrat, and not an intelligence officer by training. Libyans do not associate him with the bloodiest periods in Gaddafi's autocracy such as the 1980s, and he is rumored to have been one of the few officials unafraid to speak his mind in the presence of the now-toppled leader.
He is believed to have taken on his job in 2009 when his predecessor Moussa Koussa became foreign minister. Koussa defected earlier this year and criticized Qaddafi’s violent suppression of unrest.
Dorda said he would not denounce the government he once served. “You will never hear it from a man like Abu Zaid Dorda. I am not running from anything. I am not running away from anything,” he said.
Asked by a fighter called Said Haftar: “So you consider it (Qaddafi’s government) to be something good and nice?”
Dorda replied: “Good or bad, it does not matter, because, any statements made at this moment is considered a humiliation.”