How Labour secretly put Libyan dissidents under house arrest at Gaddafi’s behest following Blair’s ‘deal in the desert’
Published in The Mail on Sunday (September 11th, 2011)
Labour used controversial control orders to put Libyan dissidents in Britain under house arrest – at the behest of Colonel Gaddafi. The revelation will revive the debate about the draconian anti-terrorism measures and raise questions over whether they have been misused as tools of international diplomacy.
The disclosure, in documents abandoned in the British Ambassador’s residence in Tripoli, suggests at least 12 UK-based opponents of Gaddafi may have been double-crossed by the Labour Government.
More than 50 Libyan dissidents won asylum in Britain 15 years ago, at a time when Gaddafi was an international pariah. But after Tony Blair signed his infamous ‘deal in the desert’ in 2004, bringing Gaddafi in from the cold, several people were designated a terrorist risk and put under house arrest. The documents suggest their alleged crimes were ‘passport forgery’ and ‘fundraising for relatives’.
Now some of those dissidents have returned to Libya as part of the Allied-backed operation to install a new pro-Western administration.
Tory MP David Davis, who was Shadow Home Secretary when control orders were introduced, said: ‘It looks as if the Labour Government used control orders as a way of appeasing Gaddafi by handicapping his opponents, rather than as a way of protecting the safety of British citizens. There should be a proper inquiry.’
Control orders were introduced by Labour in 2005 to put under house arrest people who could not be prosecuted for alleged terror offences because the evidence was not strong enough. Those given control orders cannot use a mobile phone or the internet, can leave their homes only during certain hours of the day and have to wear an electronic tag at all times.
The dissidents fled to Britain in 1996 after a failed plot to assassinate Gaddafi by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The Government has denied renegade spy David Shayler’s claim that MI6 funded the uprising. After Gaddafi’s clampdown on the LIFG, hundreds fled Libya, with dozens being allowed to settle in Britain.
In the wake of 9/11, the United Nations designated the LIFG a terrorist organisation. Britain did not follow suit until Libya said it was abandoning its weapons of mass destruction programme in 2003, paving the way for the Blair deal in 2004.
The LIFG was then banned by Labour, with five of its members arrested in swoops by armed police. They were Khalid Abusalama, now 40, Nasir Bourouag, 48, and Abd Al Rahman al-Faqih, 52, who were arrested in Birmingham. Ziad Hashem, 36, was held in Cardiff and Ismail Kamoka, 45, was seized in London.
The Mail on Sunday has obtained a secret MI5 dossier on the LIFG dated February 2005. The document, marked ‘Secret UK/Libya Eyes Only’, says Mr Hashem, Mr Bourouag and Mr Abusalama were fundraising and committing passport forgery in the UK.
Another dossier, dated August 2008, states: ‘It is believed that most of the money [raised in the UK] is going to assist wives and orphans of dead and imprisoned LIFG members in Sudan.’
After a Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearing in 2007, the five men were taken out of detention and put under control orders. Separately, seven other LIFG members were also put under house arrest at that time.
The orders on Mr al-Faqih and Mr Kamoka were lifted in 2009, after Gaddafi signed a truce with the LIFG. Mr Kamoka plans to sue Britain for detaining him under control orders.
Noman Benotman, a former LIFG leader who advises Britain on counter-terrorism, said: ‘The LIFG never planned terror attacks in the UK. Sometimes, to help family and friends escape from Libya, some members forged passports or sent money.’
Mr Abusalama has returned to Libya to fight Gaddafi. Neighbours of Mr Bourouag, in Acocks Green, Birmingham, said he, his wife and four children are also back in Libya. It is believed that dozens of British-based LIFG members have returned to fight Gaddafi in recent months.
Civil liberties group Human Rights Watch said LIFG members played a key role in the rag-tag army that toppled Gaddafi. One of the most high-profile LIFG members is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now the military commander of Tripoli. He has accused the British Government of facilitating his rendition to Libya from Thailand in 2004.
So far, 52 men have been put under control orders, with 12 still subject to them. The cost has soared to £26.8 million, including legal bills for defending the men in court. David Cameron has ordered a review into the powers.
Charles Clarke was Labour’s Home Secretary when most of the Libyans were put under control orders. Last night he said: ‘All the decisions were taken on the grounds of the UK’s national security and that alone.’
Questions Britain told Gaddafi’s torturers to ask rebels
A secret dossier filled with scores of suggested questions for the man now leading Libyan rebel forces was sent by British intelligence to Gaddafi’s notorious security forces. The 39-page dossier exposes Britain’s complicity in Abdel Hakim Belhaj’s capture, torture and return into Gaddafi’s hands seven years ago.
Mr Belhaj, now the military commander in Tripoli, plans to sue the British Government after it emerged MI6 assisted in his ‘rendition’ to torture and brutal treatment from the CIA and Gaddafi’s regime.
David Cameron said last week that an inquiry would examine collusion between MI6 and Gaddafi after revelations in The Mail on Sunday.
Mr Belhaj says he was suspended from a ceiling and tortured at a secret prison at Bangkok airport before spending six years in solitary confinement in a jail in Tripoli. He claims he was questioned by three British agents, one a woman, who ignored his complaints about mistreatment. His pregnant wife was also beaten, he says.
The intelligence dossier, labelled ‘UK Secret’ on each page, has been seen by The Mail on Sunday. It was written in 2004, starting at the month of Mr Belhaj’s arrest.
The questions directed at the former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group ask about everything from his personal history to his activities in Afghanistan and links to Al Qaeda. They include: ‘Where is he from? What is his personal history – locations, activities, date? When did he join the group? When did he become head?’
They direct Gaddafi’s men to find out if Mr Belhaj underwent military training. They point out he was in Afghanistan during and after 9/11, and ask: ‘Does he know Osama bin Laden personally? When did they first meet?’
British intelligence also wanted to know who would succeed Mr Belhaj as LIFG’s leader and whether there were plans for revenge attacks following his arrest. Further questions ask if his group was linked to bombings in Casablanca that left 45 people dead and terrorism in Yemen.
A second document on the LIFG, prepared in 2005 by British intelligence for Gaddafi, says Mr Belhaj’s arrest pushed it towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by Al Qaeda. The groups later merged.
Mr Belhaj has insisted his sole motivation with the LIFG was to overthrow Gaddafi and he had no interest in Al Qaeda’s goals.
Fresh proof MI5 renegade David Shayler was right
Downing Street arranged for Libyan officials to meet with the Crown Prosecution Service and be given information on renegade spy David Shayler. The astonishing revelation gives credence to the former MI5 officer’s claim that British intelligence was involved in a plot to assassinate Gaddafi.
Shayler’s allegations about a plot to kill the Libyan dictator were dismissed by Robin Cook, then Foreign Secretary, as ‘pure fantasy’ when they emerged in 1998. Shayler also said British intelligence kept tabs on senior Labour figures including Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw, and planted false stories in the media. His claims were first published in The Mail on Sunday.
Shayler, who was later jailed for breaking the Official Secrets Act, said British intelligence officers paid the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) £100,000 to plant a bomb under Gaddafi’s motorcade in Sirte in 1996 as punishment for his support of global terrorism. The bomb exploded under the wrong car and killed several civilians.
In 2007, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, wrote to Gaddafi’s son Saif ‘to discuss how we can take forward co-operation between the UK and Libya’.
The letter, which discussed oil contracts with BP and how Rolls-Royce was keen to meet the dictator’s son to discuss business opportunities, stated: ‘We would like to invite the Libyan Attorney General to visit the UK…and meet the Principal Legal Adviser in the Crown Prosecution Service and the Crown Prosecutor responsible for David Shayler’s prosecution.’
A spokeswoman for the CPS confirmed the meeting took place but said the lawyer involved could not recall what was discussed.
Annie Machon, Shayler’s former girlfriend and fellow MI5 officer, said yesterday: ‘At the time we knew MI6 was out of control from its political masters. ‘Had David’s claims been taken seriously and there been a full public inquiry at the time, perhaps we would not be seeing all the things now emerging in Tripoli’