Devastating secret files in Libya reveal UK ‘crossed the line’ to prop up tyrant

Jack Doyle, Neil Sears – Daily Mail September 5, 2011

Damning claims have emerged that Britain helped send a terror suspect into the bloody hands of Colonel Gaddafi.

A secret letter found in an abandoned Libyan government building appears to show that MI6 provided intelligence which led to the ‘rendition’ of a Libyan dissident who was then tortured horrifically.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who by a bitter irony is now a senior military commander in the rebel army, last night claimed British agents were among the first to question him in Tripoli, adding that he was very ‘surprised that the British got involved in what was a very painful period in my life’.

He said: ‘I wasn’t allowed a bath for three years and I didn’t see the sun for one year.

‘They hung me from the wall and kept me in an isolation cell. I was regularly tortured.’

Astonishingly, the letter’s author appears desperate to take credit for Britain’s role, and fawning in his attitude to Musa Kusa, Gaddafi’s intelligence chief who was known as the regime’s ‘envoy of death’.

He writes: ‘This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years.’

The letter lays bare the startlingly close relationship between British spies and senior figures in the Gaddafi regime, and raises serious questions about whether the UK helped in one of the most controversial elements of the U.S. ‘war on terror’ – the illegal movement of prisoners around the world.

The explosive letter was among hundreds of documents found abandoned by campaign group Human Rights Watch on Friday in the offices formerly occupied by Kusa as head of the Libyan foreign ministry.

Their authenticity has not been officially confirmed.

Headlined ‘for Musa in Tripoli from Mark in London’, the letter about Belhadj is thought to have been written by Sir Mark Allen, MI6’s then counter-terrorism chief, who now works for BP.

It was written days before Tony Blair arrived in Tripoli for the notorious ‘Deal in the Desert’ in March 2004.

In the letter, the writer discusses the arrangements for the PM’s visit, including the suggestion that Downing Street wanted Mr Blair and the Libyan leader to appear in a tent together because the image would appeal to the British public.

Alarmingly, at the end of the letter he congratulates Musa Kusa on the arrival of Mr Belhadj, who Human Rights Watch said is also known as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, and appears to indicate the rendition was carried out by the U.S. on the basis of British intelligence.

There is no suggestion, however, that Britain was directly involved in the operation to capture him.

Taking clear credit for the fact that Belhadj is in Libyan custody, he writes: ‘I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week. Abu Abd Allah’s information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us.’

He also boasts of keeping the Americans in the dark and dealing with Musa Kusa directly, and refers to the prisoner as ‘air cargo’.

He added: ‘Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd Allah through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.

‘The intelligence about Abu Abd Allah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us.’

Last night the leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said the documents should be passed to the Gibson inquiry which is considering allegations of British complicity in torture.

He said: ‘MI6 were entirely right to have dealings with Libyan intelligence in 2004 to obtain information … but they had no right to assist Gaddafi’s regime by illegal rendition – putting dissidents in the hands of a brutal agency that was well known to use torture and murder.’

The documents show how British intelligence led to Belhadj being captured in Bangkok on in March 2004. MI6 knew of his whereabouts because Belhadj was attempting to seek asylum in the UK.

Documents show that five days before he was taken back to Tripoli, MI6 gave Libya Belhaj’s French and Moroccan aliases, and told them he was in detention in Sepang, Malaysia.

The papers also suggest that there were at least eight occasions when the CIA sent terrorism suspects for questioning in Libya.

Other documents expose how Sir Mark flattered the Libyan spy chief, at one point thanking him for ‘a large volume of dates and oranges’. Spies also sent Christmas greetings, helped obtain telephone numbers and details of Libyan dissidents in the UK, the documents suggest.

Musa Kusa, who fled the regime with the assistance of MI6 in February, came to the UK and is now thought to be in the Middle East.

Last night the Foreign Office appeared to confirm they were genuine when a spokesman said: ‘It is the Government’s longstanding policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

‘Nor would we comment on leaked British documents.’

Sir Mark did not respond to requests for comment. A BP spokesman declined to comment.

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