Two Libyans who were rendered by Britain into the hands of the Gaddafi regime in 2004 are to sue Sir Mark Allen, the former MI6 director who apparently played a central role in organising the operation.
Abdelhakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi (pictured right), both leading opponents of Colonel Gaddafi, were flown back to pre-revolutionary Libya in a move organised by MI6 to, in the words of then-Counter-Terror Director Sir Mark Allen, “demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years”. On their return, they were imprisoned and subjected to torture for a number of years. Both men report having been interrogated by British and American agents during their captivity in Tajoura, a notorious prison run by Gaddafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa.
Sir Mark’s role in the operation came to light last summer, when a group of rebels, journalists, and Human Rights Watch stormed Moussa Koussa’s former offices and found correspondence in which he “congratulate[s]” Mr Koussa “on the safe arrival” of Mr Belhadj.
Both men were rendered from East Asia to Libya along with their families. Mr Belhadj was accompanied by his pregnant wife, and Mr al-Saadi by his wife and four young children.
Sir Mark has now been notified by both of the men that they intend to take legal proceedings against him. A letter of claim, sent by their UK lawyers Leigh Day & Co, seeks his response to allegations that he was complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office; and to examine his exact role in the rendition of both men, as well as claiming damages from him personally for the trauma involved.
The move follows the launch earlier this month of a criminal inquiry by Scotland Yard into the allegations.
Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “Abedelhakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi – and their families – deserve an explanation for the appalling abuse they suffered. The documents showing British involvement in their rendition to Libya appear to have Mark Allen’s name all over them – yet we’ve not had a word out of him since they became public last year. We need to know whether MI6’s plan to deliver Gaddafi’s opponents into his hands was authorised from the top. If it was, let Sir Mark bring that defence, and let’s hear who signed off on this shameful affair.”
Sapna Malik, Partner at Leigh Day & Co said: “We are taking this unusual step of preparing a legal action against an individual as the documents we have in our possession suggest Sir Mark was directly involved in the unlawful rendition of our clients and their families. The documents, which have so far come to light, raise serious questions to answer, particularly in light of the horrendous treatment to which our clients were subjected. There must be full accountability for this dark episode.”
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell on +44 (0) 20 7427 1082
2. Mr Al Saadi (45) was rendered to Libya with his wife and four young children from Hong Kong in 2004, while they were trying to travel to Europe. It is alleged that the UK and US were involved in their rendition.
Once in Libya, the family were all detained for several weeks, with Mr Al-Saadi separated from the rest of his family. Mr Al-Saadi was imprisoned for several years afterwards, during which time he was severely tortured. He remembers being visited by UK agents during his imprisonment.
His children were aged 12, 11, 9 and 6 at the time of their rendition.
Mr Belhadj (45) was also living in exile with his wife, now 38, when they were also detained and unlawfully rendered back to Libya, with alleged UK and US involvement. They claim they were initially detained by the US during which time Mr Belhadj and his wife describe being very badly mistreated.
He was then detained for six years in prison in Libya, and claims “foreign” agents, including some from the UK, interrogated him. He was severely tortured during his imprisonment.
He said: "To this day, I cannot understand why my pregnant wife was put on the same plane and abused as well.”
In a letter from Sir Mark to Moussa Koussa, head of Gaddafi's intelligence agency, dated March 18 2004, found last summer in Tripol, Sir Mark passes on thanks for helping to arrange Tony Blair's visit to Gaddafi, writing: "Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Mr Belhadj]." He continues: "This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years."
Sir Mark left MI6 in 2004 to join BP, for which it is reported he later helped arrange lucrative oil and gas contracts in Libya.
3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to deliver justice and save lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.