Libyan papers show UK worked with Gaddafi in rendition operation
A secret CIA document found among the haul shows that the British and Libyans worked together to arrange for a terrorism suspect to be removed from Hong Kong to Tripoli – along with his wife and children – despite the risk that they would be tortured. The wording of the document suggests the CIA was not involved in the planning of the rendition operation, but was eager to become engaged during its execution and offered financial support.
Other papers found in the building suggest MI6 enjoyed a far closer working relationship with Gaddafi’s intelligence agencies than has been publicly known, and was involved in a number of US-led operations that also resulted in Islamists being consigned to Gaddafi’s prisons.
On Sunday, one of the victims, Abdul Hakim Belhaj – now commander of the anti-Gaddafi militia in Tripoli – demanded an apology from London and Washington and said he was considering suing over his rendition to Tripoli and subsequent torture.
On it goes:
For several years, senior MI5 and MI6 officers have sought to deny that their agencies have been guilty even of complicity in the rendition operations mounted by the US after 9/11, and the subsequent torture of the victims.
The discovery of the papers suggests that on one occasion, at least, the British ran their own “rendition to torture” operation. The victim was named by the CIA as Abu Munthir. He is thought to have been a man who used this nom de guerre while living in the UK, where he is said to have encouraged a group of British Muslims to mount a bomb attack on an unspecified target in the south-east of England. The plotters were under surveillance by MI5 and counterterrorism detectives at the time that Abu Munthir was detained in Hong Kong in March 2004 before being sent to Libya.
While five members of the gang were jailed for life after a trial at the Old Bailey, and a sixth received a 10-year sentence in Canada, the fate of Abu Munthir and his family remains unknown.
The papers were discovered by staff of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO, in the unmarked offices of Libya’s external security agency. A number of the documents detail meetings between the British and Libyans during the period of rapprochement that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when Gaddafi was being persuaded to abandon his nuclear weapons programme.
This is probably the most outrageous part:
The documents also show that British intelligence agencies provided intelligence reports on individuals of interest to Tripoli, helped the Libyans identify at least one organisation using particular telephone numbers in the UK, and were intimately involved in a number of US operations that saw Islamist terrorist suspects rendered to Libya. Since the ousting of Gaddafi it has become apparent that the regime’s enemies were tortured routinely while imprisoned, and at least one rendition victim, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, later died in what the Libyans claimed was a suicide.
The CIA fax that details the UK-Libya rendition operation is potentially the most damning for the UK authorities, however. It was sent to Tripoli on 23 March 2003 and marked SECRET/US ONLY/EXCEPT LIBYA. “Our service has become aware that last weekend LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] deputy Emir Abu Munthir and his spouse and children were being held in Hong Kong detention for immigration/passport violations,” it says. “We are also aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect Abu Munthir’s removal to Tripoli, and that you had an aircraft available for this purpose in the Maldives.”