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 318.

    It would be impossible to successfully manage a country's politics and be honest at either the local or national level.Productive dishonesty is a prerequisite to political success. New Labour was sadly rather unsubtle in practice. One could see the poverty of its use of productive dishonesty in politics and in diplomacy with the eye of a child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Seems to be another example of the British establishment doing what it has always done. Being treacherous, hypocritical, duplicitous, dishonest and manipulative. No wonder that they are now legislating themselves the power to hold any legal proceedings in secret.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I have no problem with not playing by the rules-why would you go into a boxing ring with your gloves on when your opponent has a gun?
    However,I am concerned about cosying up to despots who we (or sections of government) have decided are okay now or, more to the point,have some financial incentive to smooth the path.
    You can't blame the Middle East for considering us and the US two-faced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I`m sure we have always been and always will be complicit in the redition of detainees, it`s all part of secret deals western governments have with each other as a matter of policy, but i`m also sure that if this ever comes to court the government will make use of secret courts to cover it up.


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.