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PORTSIDE  September 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE September 2011, Week 1

Subject:

MI6 knew I was tortured, says Libyan rebel leader

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Mon, 5 Sep 2011 20:27:36 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (178 lines)

MI6 knew I was tortured, says Libyan rebel leader

Abdul Hakim Belhaj says MI6 helped CIA arrest him and
send him to Libya for torture

Martin Chulov 
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 September 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/05/abdul-hakim-belhaj-libya-mi6-torture 

[Photo] Libya rebels Rebels surround a building in Tripoli,
Libya. Documents alleging UK links to renditions to
Libya have been unearthed by rebels as they take
control of the country. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A Libyan rebel leader who was rendered to Tripoli with
the assistance of MI6 said on Monday that he had told
British intelligence officers he was being tortured but
they did nothing to help him.

In a claim that will increase the pressure for further
disclosure about the UK's role in torture and rendition
since 9/11, Abdul Hakim Belhaj said a team of British
interrogators used hand signals to indicate they
understood what he was telling them.

"I couldn't believe they could let this go on," he
said. "What has happened deserves a full inquiry."

Belhaj was detained by the CIA in Thailand in 2004
following an MI6 tipoff, allegedly tortured, then flown
to Tripoli, where he says he suffered years of abuse in
one of Muammar Gaddafi's prisons.

It emerged on Monday that MI6 had been able to tell the
CIA of his whereabouts after his associates informed
British diplomats in Malaysia that he wished to claim
asylum in the UK. Belhaj was then allowed to board a
flight for London and abducted when the plane called at
Bangkok.

There were signs that the discovery of a cache of
secret MI6 and CIA documents at an abandoned government
office building in Tripoli was triggering panic in some
parts of Whitehall.

The papers detail the UK's role not only in the
rendition of Belhaj, but in that of a second man, known
as Abu Munthir. This operation appears to have been
planned by British and Libyan intelligence officers
without any CIA involvement.

David Cameron said the disclosures would be
investigated by the Gibson inquiry, set up last year to
examine the UK's role in torture and rendition.

It was unclear whether MI6 or MI5 had disclosed
anything to the inquiry before the new documents came
to light. Inquiry staff first indicated they knew
nothing about the Libyan operations, and were seeking
information from the government "as soon as possible".
Later they said they had "received material relating to
these issues", but declined to be more specific.

Similarly, the Conservative MP Richard Ottaway, a
former member of the intelligence and security
committee, a Westminster body supposed to provide
oversight of MI5 and MI6, indicated the committee knew
nothing about the UK-Libya operations before giving the
agencies a clean bill of health in a 2007 report on
rendition; he then said he could say nothing about the
matter.

Belhaj on Monday revealed more details of the lead-up
to his rendition on 6 March 2004, which he says came
amid his attempts to reach the UK, of which the
government had become aware.

He said he had first tried to travel to London from
Kuala Lumpur via Beijing in late February that year.
However, he was refused permission to board in Beijing,
despite carrying a French passport, which does not
require a pre-issued UK visa.

He was returned to Kuala Lumpur where he was detained
by Malaysian immigration officials. It is understood
that an associate of Belhaj then visited the British
embassy in Kuala Lumpur advising officials there of his
intention to seek political asylum in the UK.

Shortly afterwards he was freed from the detention
centre and allowed to buy a ticket to London via
Bangkok. By then he had disposed of his French
passport, issued to a Jamal Kaderi, and was travelling
on a Moroccan passport, issued in the name of Abdul
al-Nabi. Holders of Moroccan passports require a
pre-issued visa to enter the UK, but Belhaj said he did
not apply for a visa and was allowed to board without
one - a highly unusual practice.

The revelation raises fresh questions about the extent
of the government's role in Belhaj's rendition.
Documents discovered last Friday reveal that a senior
MI6 officer, Mark Allen, had written to Libyan spy
chief Moussa Koussa congratulating him on receiving
Belhaj and acknowledging that "the intelligence was
British".

"I would not board until they assured me that I could
travel to the UK," Belhaj said. "They did that and I
got on the plane."

Belhaj was captured by CIA officers, in co-operation
with Thai authorities, inside Bangkok airport. He says
he was tortured at a site in the airport grounds and
then sent to Libya, where Gaddafi had long seen him as
one of the biggest threats to his tyrannical
four-decade rule.

"The British were the second team to visit me," he
said. "They came about a month after I was returned to
Libya and they were very well briefed about LIFG
[Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] members in the UK. They
knew everything, even their code names. They wanted to
know more details about the LIFG and also about the
general environment elsewhere, al-Qaida, that sort of
thing. There was a woman who was leading the team, a
big man and a third person who was translating. They
only came one time."

Belhaj said intelligence officers from other European
countries, including France, Germany and Italy, also
travelled to Tripoli to speak to him inside the
infamous Abu Selim prison in the south of the capital.

Before each visit he was told by Libyan officers - and
sometimes by Koussa - to "tell the British and others
that the people they are asking about are al-Qaida".

"The Libyans told me that if I told them that I would
be treated better."

He said Koussa, who fled the Gaddafi regime in March
with MI6 help, would often taunt him in prison, with
threats that he would die there. On one occasion Koussa
ordered guards to put a shade over half of Belhaj's
cell window, to reduce what little sunlight he was
getting.

Files seen by the Guardian on Sunday inside the now
ransacked offices of the external security service
reveal that Libyan spies remained in close co-operation
with the CIA and MI6 as late as November last year. The
files reveal the Americans, in particular, were
regularly requesting information about the identities
of Libyan cellphone users. One document showed that the
CIA had responded to a Libyan request about the user of
a satellite phone by giving GPS references for every
call made.

___________________________________________

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