MI6 knew I was tortured, says Libyan rebel leader
Abdul Hakim Belhaj says MI6 helped CIA arrest him and
send him to
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 September 2011
A Libyan rebel leader who was rendered to
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
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
following an MI6 tipoff, allegedly tortured, then flown
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
asylum in the
There were signs that the discovery of a cache of
secret MI6 and CIA documents at an abandoned government
office building in
The papers detail 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
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
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
government had become aware.
He said he had first tried to travel to
However, he was refused permission to board in
despite carrying a French passport, which does not
require a pre-issued
He was returned to
by Malaysian immigration officials. It is understood
that an associate of Belhaj then visited the British
intention to seek political asylum in the
Shortly afterwards he was freed from the detention
centre and allowed to buy a ticket to
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
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
got on the plane."
Belhaj was captured by CIA officers, in co-operation
with Thai authorities, inside
he was tortured at a site in the airport grounds and
then sent to
one of the biggest threats to his tyrannical
"The British were the second team to visit me," he
said. "They came about a month after I was returned to
[Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] members in the
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
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
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