UK government 'approved Abdel Hakim Belhaj's rendition'

Abdel Hakim Belhaj Mr Belhaj is now head of the Tripoli Military Council in the new Libya

Related Stories

The UK government approved the 2004 rendition of a terror suspect to the Gaddafi regime, the BBC can reveal.

A letter from an MI6 officer refers to Abdel Hakim Belhaj's rendition to Libya. It congratulates the Libyans on the "safe arrival" of the "air cargo".

Mr Belhaj says he was tortured in jail. Successive UK governments have denied complicity in rendition or torture.

But BBC correspondent Peter Taylor says he understands Mr Belhaj's rendition was given ministerial approval.

However it is not clear at what level of government the decision was authorised.

The letter from the senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, to Col Gaddafi's intelligence chief, Musa Kusa, was found last year in the rubble of Musa Kusa's headquarters, which were bombed by Nato.

As well as congratulating the Libyans on the arrival of the "cargo", it points out that "the intelligence was British".

The letter was sent in 2004 when Mr Belhaj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

MI5 believed the group was close to al-Qaeda and involved in recruiting young Muslims in Britain to fight in Iraq.

Start Quote

Britain regarded Belhaj as a terrorist who had met Osama Bin Laden during the Afghan jihad against the Russians in the late 1980s, and whose group MI5 believed was involved in recruiting young British Muslims”

End Quote Peter Taylor BBC correspondent

Our correspondent says it appears MI6 had discovered that Mr Belhaj was in Malaysia and about to head for London in the hope of obtaining political asylum.

MI6 informed its foreign intelligence partners, and as a result Mr Belhaj was intercepted in Bangkok, presumably by the CIA, and rendered to Libya.

Our correspondent says the letter suggests MI6 was complicit in Mr Belhaj's illegal rendition and alleged torture in Libya - but that MI6 was not acting unilaterally.

He says his understanding is that MI6 obtained authorisation from the Labour government of the time for its action.

Jack Straw was the Labour Foreign Secretary in 2004 when the rendition took place. In an interview on BBC Radio 4 last year he said: "We were opposed to unlawful rendition. We were opposed to any use of torture or similar methods. Not only did we not agree with it, we were not complicit in it and nor did we turn a blind eye to it."

He added: "No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time."

His office told the BBC Mr Straw had nothing further to add in the light of the current allegations.

Mr Belhaj - now a senior military commander in the new Libya that Britain helped create - is suing MI6 and the British government, accusing them of complicity in his illegal rendition and alleged torture.

He says he believes he was rendered from Bangkok to Libya by the CIA.

The Metropolitan Police is also investigating his allegations.

Mr Belhaj worked with Nato as one of the leaders of the forces that helped overthrow Col Muammar Gaddafi.

But he claims that during his more than four years in prison he was interrogated by agents from countries including the UK and US.

'Very worrying'

He had been living in exile in Beijing after leading opposition to Col Gaddafi.

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who now chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, said the report is a cause for great concern.

He said: "It's very worrying indeed because if he was rendered to Libya and if the United Kingdom intelligence agencies and the United Kingdom government were involved, that is not only contrary to the policy that the British government has pursued for a long number of years, but also to assurances that were given to the intelligence and security committee as well as to Parliament as a whole."

In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron established a detainee inquiry into "whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees, held by other countries, that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11".

However, the inquiry was mothballed in January 2012 after the Metropolitan Police announced it was investigating Mr Belhaj's claims.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the government was committed to holding a judge-led inquiry once these were investigated.

Watch Modern Spies on BBC 2 at 21:00 BST on Monday 9 April for more on this story.


More on This Story

Related Stories

From other news sites

* May require registration or subscription

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Talk about biting the hand that feeds you

  • Comment number 358.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    346. freindleonewhocares .... I don't have a problem with people being carted around the world, as long as they have been tried and convicted by due process of the law. After all, MI5 might think the same of you or I as being guilty but it doesn't mean that we are. Not a nice thought to think such outfits think they are above our laws. It's the reason we have Laws in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Ady 308: What a wonderfully Christian sentiment, Ady!

    Eye for an eye? Tooth for a tooth? Bomb for a bomb?

    What happened to "Turn the other cheek"? DId not the Lord Jesus Christ HIMSELF cast out the money-changers and the cheats from the Temple? Did he not condemn those who professed the law and made show of following it whilst their hearts were empty?
    The UK a Christian country? Hmm!

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Anyone who watched "Modern Spies" would know that this guy is telling lies. I don't believe a word coming out of his mouth. I await the time when one of these Left Wing softies lose a member of their family in a bomb attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    "he was a freedom fighter, fighting against a tyranical regeime" (sic)
    One person's freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist. He should get the compensation - as long as he pays for the military intervention the UK provided to get him into power. I think the debt is to us.

  • Comment number 353.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    What you are reading is the result of 'politically correct'. It has taken years to get people into a position of 'not thinking' for fear of being labeled themselves.

    Come to think of does one fight a politically correct war?

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    What puzzles me is why you believe anyone (other than journalists) actaully cares. No one I speak to down the pub does. In fact, they are in favour of what MI6 does. I think you need to speak more English people, and find out what the native population cares about.

  • Comment number 350.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    No doubt, Britain has been America political slave since George Bush and Tony Blair were at it. Rendition and the CIA involvement in it world-wide is accepted by all future British government. Jack Straw is king of lie. Rendition happened on his watch. Yet he said I don't know about it. Any British who committed a crime in America can be sent back to America to face trial now. Anglo-American Ally?

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Really, as if we all didn't know what was going on. Has any politician / person from MI5 / 6 been made to stand trial? Given that it breaks treaties and obligations and is probably illegal in this country anyway. I wonder if anyone will be taken to the International Criminal Court. Doubt it. Why not just repeal all these acts to do with torture, aiding torture etc....... solve a lot of problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    346. freindleonewhocares
    I am amazed and disappointed at the amount of comments here supporting the "rights"of terrorists.

    Don't worry! This is HYS.... its full of david icke forum users.

    Most British people would be quite comfortable to give terror suspects a very hard time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    I am amazed and disappointed at the amount of comments here supporting the "rights"of terrorists.Have such bad conscious that they feel obliged to creep for these people?With this attitude it is easy to see why so many possible undesirables seek refuse in Britain,so many positively welcome them.Shame on all of you that cannot see that the most important thing is to protect our own first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    "trying to take over"

    For practical purposes - at least for the dead, the unemployed, the future 'surplus to requirements', our children left with a ravaged planet - it's happened already

    Not exactly by 'The Mob' or the mob, but by Fear & Greed, our own surrender of the direction of our lives - despite nominal democracy - to NON-representative selfish short-termism

    Need Equality

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    12. U14883532; Please post evidence of your claims....and not Wikipedia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Let's try again.
    Is it ok to illegally rendition and torture anyone, no matter how evil they may be?
    If you were at the receiving end, because of mistaken identity, would you accept such treatment?
    Or would you be angry?

  • Comment number 342.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    It is a question of 'do as we say, not as we do'. Full stop

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    Renditions have and will always happen - plain simple.

    Its quite amusing the amount of liberals who seem to be astonished by this. The same liberals who seem to believe that the government have nothing to hide with the new bill to monitor internet usage and that the government will help them in a time of emergency.

    Get over it, if you want to do something about it, protest to your mp.


Page 1 of 18


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.