New revelations show the relationship between Colonel Gaddafi’s regime with Western intelligence services may have been too close and cosy.
The former Libyan foreign minister has accused Britain’s spy agency, Mi6, of having close ties with Gaddafi’s spies until the country’s revolution began. Abdelati Obeidi, now in detention, told the BBC that British intelligence agents were in Tripoli, working with the regime until February.
Since 2003, The US and the UK embraced Libya as an important ally after Gaddafi agreed to halt Libya’s programme of weapons of mass destruction. The relationship became too close for some, as the CIA and MI6 helped the North African country with rendition of “terror suspects”.
Amnesty International called the rendition case a “murky, disgraceful affair” and said “it’s looking increasingly likely that members of the UK security services were involved in the nuts and bolts of arranging for people to be ‘rendered’ and that secret detention and torture was the end-result.”
Rebel Leader Abdul Hakim Belhaj has alleged that he told Mi6 agents that he was being tortured in detention but that they didn’t do anything about it. Belhaj was arrested in 2004 in Thailand by the CIA after intelligence was passed to them from Mi6, according to the Guardian. He was then flown to Tripoli and spent years in a prison in conditions that violated his human rights, he claims.
Belhaj, who was suspected of being an al-Qaeda ally, applied for asylum in the UK when he was in Malaysia. He was allowed to board an aeroplane to London, but during a stopover in Bangkok he was snatched and returned to Tripoli.
A 2004 secret Mi6 document about Belhaj’s rendition was found in a deserted government building in Tripoli on Friday. It was addressed to Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s right hand man who ran the country’s spy agency at the time. Part of the document read:
“This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years.”
The letter was signed by M. It has been reported that M stands for Mark Allen, who ran counter-terrorism operations for Mi6 and is now an adviser to BP. The giant oil company won a huge contract in Libya in 2007, BBC reported.
“He was very important, as a counterpart to Moussa Koussa and as being close to (then British Prime Minister) Blair and adviser to BP. He was always speaking about BP,” Obeidi remarked on Allen.
“We’ve asked the retired judge, Sir Peter Gibson, to examine issues around the detention and treatment of terrorist suspects overseas and this inquiry has already said it will look at these latest accusations very carefully.
“My concern throughout has been not only to remove any stain on Britain’s reputation but also to deal with these accusations of malpractice so as to enable our security services to get on with the vital work that they do.”
But does the inquiry have the necessary powers to uncover all the wrongdoings by security services?
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock doesn’t believe so. He says the inquiry is at the moment “ill-equipped to deliver the truth”.
“The inquiry needs to be made independent of the government, in terms of what it can make public. It needs the extra power to compel witnesses to attend and it needs to ensure that former detainees have proper access to the proceedings, including to cross-examine witnesses,” he added.
By Ali Sheikholeslami