I’ll reveal how MI6 gave me to Gaddafi’s thugs
Published by The Mail on Sunday (14th December, 2014)
A Libyan dissident kidnapped by US forces with the help of MI6 and delivered, along with his pregnant wife, to Muammar Gaddafi’s torturers says he will press ahead with a court case that threatens to reveal the full extent of British complicity with CIA abuse of terrorist suspects.
In his only newspaper interview following the publication of the US Senate’s report on shocking torture by the CIA, Abdul-Hakim Belhadj told The Mail on Sunday it was now clear the level of British involvement had been covered up.
‘I want the Government to recognise and apologise for what was done,’ he said. ‘It is very sad that British intelligence played a key role in violations, including those against me and my wife. I recall with great pain what was done to us when my wife was pregnant.
‘When I recall those dreadful moments, it was not just a grave offence to us but to the British system that is supposed to uphold the law and respect human rights.’
Mr Belhadj, former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, wants to detail in court one of the most shameful episodes for British intelligence this century.
He says that in March 2004 – the same month Tony Blair did his ‘deal in the desert’ with Gaddafi – British intelligence helped the US arrange his rendition alongside his wife to Tripoli after they sought asylum in London.
He says he was blindfolded and beaten in a ‘black prison’ in Thailand while his wife was chained to a wall. Once in Libya, he alleges he was tortured during six horrific years in jails including Tajoura and Abu Salim.
Days after Gaddafi was overthrown in Tripoli, I found documents detailing startling collusion between Britain, the US and Libya in the destroyed residence of the British Ambassador.
These included a series of questions sent by British spies for Gaddafi’s security forces to ask Belhadj. Another letter found elsewhere revealed Sir Mark Allen, then head of MI6’s counter-terrorism division, taking credit for capturing the couple.
Mr Belhadj said British operatives even visited him in Tajoura prison, near Tripoli, ignoring his descriptions of the torture he endured – including beatings and being hung from hooks on the walls.
Mr Belhadj and his wife Fatima Bouchar demand the Government acknowledge their treatment, apologise and pay token damages. They are said to have rejected a seven-figure compensation offer – but without acceptance of guilt.
‘I consider this to be an issue of dignity that cannot be settled with money,’ said Mr Belhadj.
He insists he has said from the outset he wants a formal apology and admission of abuse. ‘When they refused I wanted the judicial system to cast light on what happened to us.’
The Court of Appeal rejected government attempts to quash the case in October. Despite spending almost £400,000 of taxpayers’ cash already, Ministers are expected to make one final attempt at the Supreme Court next year.
Whitehall officials claim British relations with the US could be damaged by the case – a spurious argument designed to shield their involvement in unethical practices and destroyed by the depth of revelations in the Senate report.
Mr Belhadj’s lawyers fear the Government may seek a closed hearing. The case could be very uncomfortable for Mr Blair and ex-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
The Islamist leader, now head of a political party in Tripoli, said that he welcomed the recent Senate disclosures. ‘The American people know now what was done in their name,’ he said.
But Mr Belhadj says he bears no anger towards Britain over his abuse, which includes allegations that his rendition flight from Thailand to Libya was allowed to refuel at Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory.
‘On the contrary I have a great deal of appreciation and thanks to the British people for standing with us after the Libyan revolution… and helping us end the tyrannical rule of Gaddafi.
‘All I ask for is justice. It is up to the British judicial system to decide who was responsible and to hold them to account. These people gravely offended their electorate and the world in their complicity for what was done.
‘I would like my case to be a window for the British judiciary and public to see what was done in their name so that we can end such abuses in the future.’