Two Libyan soldiers stationed in the UK who acted like “hunting dogs” have each been sentenced to 12 years in jail for raping a man in Cambridge.
Moktar Ali Saad Mahmoud, 33, and Ibrahim Abugtila, 23, were found guilty of raping and aiding and abetting the rape of the man in his 20s in Christ’s Pieces park in October.
They were arrested while training at Bassingbourn Barracks in Cambridgeshire as part of an agreement by the British government to help Libya after the 2011 collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Cambridge crown court heard how the pair targeted a victim who was drunk and vulnerable after a night out. DI Alan Page, who led the investigation, said: “This was a truly horrendous crime and I hope today’s result will allow the victim some closure and to begin rebuilding his life.
Libyan soldiers training near Cambridge raped man, court told
“He has shown tremendous bravery throughout this whole process and I am grateful to him for the trust he placed in police in ensuring that justice was done. These men deliberately targeted their victim because of his vulnerability that night, which they took advantage of to commit this callous crime.”
Mahmoud and Abugtila denied attacking the man but were caught on CCTV leading him to the park after meeting him after a night out. Prosecutor John Farmer said they “picked off” their victim, who was drunk and vulnerable, like a “wounded animal”.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told officers: “I cannot believe what I’m saying – they raped me. It was horrible, I feel horrible. Don’t say anything to my mum.”
The men were among several hundred Libyan army cadets on a training mission with the Ministry of Defence. After the sexual offences, the scheme – intended to train 2,000 troops to bring security to the north African state – came to an end.
In a later interview, he said “three Arab guys” raped him. Describing them as “animals”, he added: “I was trying my hardest. I was trying my hardest and they were like overpowering me.”
The man told officers: “They were horrendous, they weren’t human. They weren’t human people. They were horrendous people, they were sick people. They don’t deserve to live, they shouldn’t be alive.”
Three other Libyans cadets have already admitted unrelated sex attacks which took place on the same night in Cambridge. They were sentenced at Norwich crown court on 13 May but this could not be reported until the rape case was concluded.
Khaled El Azibi, 19, admitted two counts of sexual assault and the theft of a bicycle, and was jailed for 12 months and put on the sex offender register for 10 years.
Naji El Maarfi, 21, admitted three counts of sexual assault, one count of exposure and the theft of a bicycle. He was jailed 10 months and put on the sex offender register for 10 years.
Mohammed Abdalsalam, 28, admitted two counts of sexual assault, one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and the theft of a bicycle. He was jailed for 10 months and put on the sex offender register for 10 years.
The men accosted women in Cambridge city centre, Cambridgeshire police said. The victims were all teenagers and the attacks included trying to kiss a woman without consent and then sexually assaulting her. El Maarfi exposed himself to one of the women.
At the time of the assaults, the disorder was so serious that police stepped up patrols around the Bassingbourn base to ease fears among residents of a nearby village of more “escapes” and attacks.
The base was also reinforced with troops from 2 Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, “to bolster security and reassure the local population”, the MoD said at the time.
Lewis Herbert, the leader of Cambridge city council, called on the defence secretary to issue a public apology to the victims and their families. “They also deserve a clear promise from the Ministry of Defence that it will not repeat the multiple, catastrophic errors in any future programmes for UK training of overseas troops from wartorn countries, whichever UK barracks or location is used,” he said.
“Never again should the Ministry of Defence keep details of troop visits secret from communities affected like Cambridge. Never again should the MoD carefully produce a risk assessment requiring all visits to ‘places of local interest’ to be escorted and then, as occurred in August 2015, flagrantly break it and allow totally unsupervised visits to cities like Cambridge, putting our people or other British citizens at risk.”