Libyan commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj is taking legal action against Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary, over his complicity in a rendition case.
Belhadj, a former dissident who now heads the military wing of Libya’s transitional council in Tripoli, accuses Straw of being complicit in the “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults” imposed on him by Thai and US secret services, as well as Libyan authorities, which was a result of his rendition back to Libya in 2004.
Abandoned documents found in a government office in Tripoli last September showed how the British spy agency, MI6, and its counter-terrorism boss Mark Allen, played a role in providing intelligence to the CIA which resulted in the arrest of Belhadj and his wife in Bangkok.
The 2004 secret MI6 document about Belhadj’s rendition 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.”
Belhadj, 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. He has alleged that he told MI6 agents that he was being tortured in detention but that they didn’t do anything about it.
Since 2003, The US and the UK embraced Libya as an important ally after the then leader of the country, Muammar 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”.
At the time the documents were discovered, 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.”
Straw, who served in the government of Tony Blair has been accused of approving Belhadj’s rendition. He has said he was unable to comment on the case because of an ongoing police investigation