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Scotland Yard asked to investigate MI6 role in abduction of Gadaffi opponent
Libyan Sami al-Saadi says he was tortured after he and his family were bundled on to a plane and flown to Tripoli
Ian Cobain and Richard Norton Taylor guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 November 2011 20.30 GMT
Scotland Yard has been asked to mount a criminal investigation into MI6 operations that led to opponents of Muammar Gaddafi's regime being abducted, along with their wives and children, and flown to Libya, where they say they endured years of torture.
One of the men, Sami al-Saadi, has asked police to investigate his "mistreatment and torture" after a cache of secret documents that disclosed the role that British intelligence officers played in his so-called rendition were discovered in an abandoned government office following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.
Lawyers representing Saadi have also made clear that he will not be participating in the Gibson inquiry – established by the prime minister last year to investigate the UK's involvement in rendition and torture since 9/11 – because they do not believe it will be sufficiently thorough, transparent or impartial.
It is the second blow to the inquiry in a week: at the weekend, Juan Méndez, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, warned that "a less than open and transparent inquiry would only serve to cover up abuses and encourage recurrence".
Lawyers for rendition victims have announced they are boycotting Gibson and most human rights groups have denounced it as a sham, saying they fear it is intended to deliver a whitewash, rather than a make a genuine attempt to discover – and make public – the truth about the British government's role in the abduction and torture of its own citizens, and others, in the wake of the 2001 attacks.
The inquiry responded by saying it regretted the boycotts. Although his inqury was established 16 months ago, the chair, Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge, has yet to hear any evidence, as he is awaiting the conclusion of a police investigation into the role British intelligence agents played in questioning al-Qaida suspects who were tortured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2002.
Saadi, who is also known as Abu Munthir, is already suing the British government, as are his wife and four children. A second opponent of Gaddafi, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who was rendered to Tripoli along with his pregnant wife, is also considering bringing proceedings.
In a speech on Wednesday in which he praised the work and bravery of MI6 and MI5 officers, William Hague, the foreign secretary, strongly defended the terms of the Gibson inquiry, where all the intelligence information will be heard in secret.
He also defended the government's controversial new green paper proposing that in future no intelligence gathered by MI5 or MI6 wouldbe disclosed in open court.
The documents that detail the UK/Libyan rendition operations were found in an abandoned Tripoli office block by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO. Among them was a fax the CIA sent to Tripoli in April 2004, showing that the agency was eager to assist with Saadi's rendition in an operation that MI6 had initiated with Gaddafi's intelligence chief.
Two days after the fax was sent, Tony Blair flew to Tripoli to meet Gaddafi. Blair embraced the dictator and the two men said they were making "common cause" in counterterrorism operations. The Libyans announced that they had signed a £550m gas exploration deal with Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant.
Three days later, Libyan intelligence agents bundled Saadi on to a plane in Hong Kong with his wife, two sons, aged 11 and nine, and two daughters, aged 12 and six. In Tripoli, he and his wife were handcuffed and hooded and their legs bound together with lengths of wire. The entire family was then thrown in jail.
Saadi's eldest daughter, Khadija, 19, has since told how she was detained with her mother and siblings for two and a half months while her father was being tortured nearby. He was held for six years.
Any Scotland Yard investigation could be expected to explore the degree of ministerial approval that was given to MI6. Shortly after the documents were discovered, Blair and Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the rendition operations, sought to distance themselves from the matter.
But Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6, has insisted that ministers authorised the agency's joint operations with Gaddafi's intelligence officers.
Senior Whitehall sources insist that the secret rendition of al-Saadi and another Libyan – Abdul Belhaj – to Tripoli was authorised by British ministers.
Blair and Straw have both declined to say whether they are aware of the identities of the ministers to whom Dearlove was referring.
In his speech on Wednesday, Hague said that during the recent Libyan fighting that ended with Gaddafi's death, British intelligence officers "saved lives", warning the National Transitional Council in Benghazi of the threat from pro-Gaddafi forces.
Freedom from Torture chief executive Keith Best said: "To claim that the 'detainee inquiry' will help to put this right and draw a line under these murky accusations conveniently overlooks the fact that this process is flawed from the outset and in its current form is not equipped to get to the truth."
Clare Algar, executive director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: "William Hague once warned that 'we cannot bury our heads in the sand' and hope allegations of torture will go away. But, sadly, this is exactly what the government is in danger of doing. The proposals which ministers have brought forward seek to shut off the very method by which we first found out about British involvement in torture."
British spies supplied the Libyan dictator's secret agents with intelligence, mobile phones and an upmarket London safe house Experts say the explosive documents suggest breaches of the Geneva Conventions, the Human Rights Act and criminal law
By Robert Verkaik, Barbara Jones and David Rose
PUBLISHED: 23:00, 21 April 2012 | UPDATED: 02:52, 22 April 2012
MI5 betrayed enemies of Colonel Gaddafi given refuge in Britain in a covert joint operation with Libyan spies working on UK soil, documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal.
Gaddafi’s secret agents were supplied by MI5 with intelligence, secure mobile phones and a luxurious safe house in the heart of London’s Knightsbridge.
The extraordinary revelations emerge from hundreds of secret documents unearthed from Libyan spymasters’ archives after the Gaddafi regime was toppled – with British military help – last year.
Shockingly, they reveal tactics of intimidation and coercion – and expose the British agents’ specific fears that their actions might be reported by the press in the UK.
The documents disclose that MI5 betrayed the confidentiality that all refugees are promised when they apply for asylum, and told the Libyans that the targets could be threatened with deportation to Libya if they refused to co-operate.
The revelations will cause a political storm. David Davis, the senior Tory MP, said they made clear that the 2004 operation to arrange the ‘rendition’ of former Gaddafi opponent Abdel Hakim Belhadj from Bangkok to Tripoli was ‘merely the start of a continuing intelligence saga’.
He added: ‘The documents seem to say that British agencies exposed people who had been given refuge here to the very people they had fled. This is an appalling betrayal of Britain’s obligations and traditions, apparently for reasons of realpolitik, not national security. What the documents reveal is coercion at best, and at worst blackmail.’
He said it was ‘essential’ that the Scotland Yard investigation into the case of Mr Belhadj – who is suing former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for allegedly authorising his kidnap and rendition – is extended to include the joint MI5-Libya operations.
Experts in refugee law say the documents imply flagrant breaches of the Geneva Conventions on refugees, the Human Rights Act and the ordinary criminal law.
Lord Carlile, QC, the former reviewer of UK anti-terror laws, said the allegations were ‘serious’ and called for an inquiry.
A senior former intelligence officer said it was ‘difficult to imagine’ that the joint operations were not sanctioned by Ministers and it was likely that the Home and Foreign Secretaries were involved, as well as the Prime Minister – at the time, Tony Blair.
But the then Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said: ‘I don’t think I knew anything about this. I certainly have no recollection of it.’ She thought that as an ‘operational matter’ it would not have needed ministerial authorisation.
Lord Reid, who was Home Secretary, failed to return phone calls asking for comment. A spokesman for Mr Blair said he had ‘no recollection’ of the operations.
The documents reveal meetings between the British and Libyan services in both Tripoli and London, and visits by the Libyan agents to make ‘approaches’ to their targets in London and Manchester in August and October 2006.
They make clear that the Libyans had at least some success, and that some of the refugees they approached did agree to co-operate.
MI5, the documents say, wanted then to turn the refugees into sources of their own, in the belief that the body to which they belonged – the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – was linked to Al Qaeda, and a threat to UK national security.
But, according to the minutes of one meeting, MI5 also knew that its decision to do business with a regime that, despite having abandoned its WMD programme, was still torturing and murdering its opponents, was controversial and had to be kept secret.
Last night a security source defended co-operation with Libya, saying: ‘Many of Jihadist fighters picked up in Afghanistan after 2001 were Libyans. They posed a threat and had to be closely monitored.’
Just 700 yeards from Harrods, a covert rendezvous between Libyan spies and MI5 agent Caroline sparks demand for criminal inquiry
Special Investigation by Robert Verkaik, Barbara Jones and David Rose
As MI5 had promised, it had left nothing to chance. Waiting for the two Libyan intelligence officers as they got off the plane at Heathrow was Caroline, the charming Security Service operative they knew from her recent visit to Tripoli.
No need for the agents to wait in line at immigration: Caroline – whose full name, together with that of other UK officers, The Mail on Sunday has chosen not to publish – met them ‘airside’, and they bypassed the usual formalities.
She was carrying two, prepaid, secure mobile phones, one for each of the Libyans, Colonel Najmuddin Ajeli and Ahmed Abdanabi.
Naturally, Caroline had organised transport: an MI5 car in which she escorted them to MI5’s safe house – a luxury service flat at one of the best addresses in London, in the heart of Knightsbridge.
This was almost certainly in Egerton Place, a brief stroll from Harrods, and less than a mile from St James’s Square, where WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot by a Libyan diplomat in 1984.
Next day, August 10, 2006, the joint operation between MI5 and the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s External Security Organisation would begin. Meanwhile, Ajeli and Abdanabi were free to enjoy a night on the town.
Details of the two Libyans’ visit are contained in a new and extraordinary cache of documents, classified UK/Libya Secret, unearthed in Gaddafi’s archives after his regime was toppled – thanks in large part to RAF airstrikes – last year.
The documents reveal that collusion between the dictator’s security agency, a byword for torture, brutality and murder throughout the Middle East, and its British counterparts was far greater than hitherto realised.
The case of Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who is suing the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for allegedly authorising his illegal ‘rendition’ from Thailand to prolonged torture in Libya in 2004, has already become notorious.
Serious as the Belhadj case is, however, in that instance the British supplied intelligence only about his whereabouts: the actual rendition was done from a distant foreign country by the American CIA.
But the new documents disclose that for at least two years after that, MI5 and MI6 developed a close and active working relationship with the Libyans.
It extended to flagrant breaches of the law that is supposed to protect political refugees, and ‘joint operations’ in which such people – whose families and friends were vulnerable to savage reprisals in Libya – were cold-bloodedly ‘targeted’ on British soil, where they thought they were safe, by the Libyan service, with direct assistance from MI5.
This breaks every convention of acceptable behaviour between governments.
‘When you ask for asylum in Britain, the form you fill in promises that the mere fact of applying will be treated by the British Government as strictly confidential, since if it became known, your friends and family would be exposed to persecution,’ a top QC and refugee law expert said yesterday.
‘But these documents suggest that not only was this rule ignored, but refugees were threatened with deportation if they refused to co-operate with the very regime they had fled – a core breach of both the 1951 Geneva Convention, and the Human Rights Act. It also appears they were coerced. Any Britons involved could also have committed the offence of misconduct in a public office.’
The documents contain a detailed narrative of the 2006 operation mounted by Caroline, Ajeli, Abdanabi and their colleagues. It began with a meeting in Tripoli on May 17, attended by X, an MI6 officer stationed in Libya (whom The Mail on Sunday has agreed not to name), Caroline from MI5, and the two Libyans who came to London in August, along with others whose names are not recorded in the meeting’s minutes – which were taken in Arabic by a member of the Libyan service.
‘We are here with you to share some co-operation and suggestions to work with your secret department,’ Caroline explained. Right from the outset, she abandoned any pretence that asylum seekers should be protected.
According to the minutes, she said: ‘Target 2 could become a very good source and we can pressure him to work for us because he’s not a British citizen.’ Another individual is identified as a possible target because he is ‘very emotional’ and would be deeply affected if any of his friends were to be arrested. The document records: ‘He could be a good source because he works in a library inside a mosque and he has close links to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group [then a banned group which operated as a political party opposing Gaddafi, and from whose ranks many of last year’s revolutionary fighters were drawn].’
After Caroline left Tripoli, plans were made for the August visit by the two Libyans. MI6’s officer X sent the details of its logistics in a memo to General Sadegh Krema, the head of the Libyan service’s external relations section, on August 8, the day before they left. As well as the safe house and the phones, MI5 would be providing lunch, and a series of meetings to formulate ‘operational plans’ for approaching their main target.
The Mail on Sunday is aware of the identity of this person, who was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) based in Didsbury, in Manchester, and an habitué of the Didsbury mosque, one of the main centres of anti-Gaddafi activity in Britain. We also have the minutes of the meeting held between the Libyans, Caroline, her colleague Tony and other MI5 staff at MI5 headquarters on August 11.
MI5 justified its participation in these operations by asserting that the LIFG was a jihadist group with links to Al Qaeda, and hence a threat to UK security – although it is a matter of record that the only Libyan ever arrested or charged with any terrorist offence committed in Britain was not from the opposition at all: the sole example is Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber freed on compassionate grounds nearly three years ago when he was said to have three months to live. In 2004, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that the LIFG was only interested in opposing Gaddafi – not mounting terrorist attacks in Britain.
Be that as it may, MI5 knew that by working so closely with Gaddafi’s agents it was taking a risk. According to the minutes, one of the MI5 staff said: ‘The target person has the right to make a complaint or seek police protection. British intelligence must be careful how they approach a target because this individual could call on human rights or the press and cause a security scandal that exposes the co-operation between British and Libyan secret services.’
The minutes suggest that MI5 preferred to use the carrot, rather than the stick, in inducing the target to start giving up information about his associates: ‘We might allow him to visit his family in Libya, then return to Britain. We could offer to help clear his name with Libyan authorities. We could offer to help with citizenship or residency. This could open the door to his co-operation. We could enter his office frequently, do business with him and open the door to further conversations.’
But if that didn’t work, then they could resort to coercion: ‘Libyan operatives could ask him [the target asylum seeker] about problems at home in Libya or in Britain.
‘They offer to help in return for giving information we want about other targets. If he refuses, British police will arrest him and accuse him of associating with Libyan secret agents. He will be told that as a non-resident of Britain he could be deported if found guilty.’
A memo dated September 27 from officer X to General Krema makes clear that the August operation had gone well, and suggests further activity against other targets in Didsbury. The Libyan agent Najmuddin Ajeli had ‘established contact’ with members of the Didsbury mosque, and the next step would be ‘joint casework between our services’.
On October 14, Ajeli and Abdanabi flew back to Britain. Another unnamed MI5 officer, says a further memo, was due to meet them, though if there were any problems, they could call Caroline.
This time, the plan was to set up further meetings with the target in Didsbury, with the hope of introducing him to MI5. The Libyans were not to stay at the safe house, however, but at the five-star City Inn Hotel, which conveniently is next to MI5’s headquarters on the Thames.
There the documentary record ends. But former Libyan dissidents who are now supporters of the revolution say they know of several individuals who were approached by Libyan intelligence and MI5 while refugees in Britain, and threatened in the ways the documents suggest.
Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who acted for several Libyan refugees, said yesterday: ‘This has been a common methodology. If you think someone is vulnerable, facing deportation, you exploit that. It is a common currency I have come across again and again.’
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QUOTE (amirrortotheenemy @ Oct 8 2011, 03:17 AM)
The Manchester agent
The papers shed some light on the way MI6 handles agents in the UK, and there is some detail about one individual – a Libyan in Manchester. The man is given a name in the documents, but for his own safety, the Guardian will call him Alan.
The correspondence between MI6 and Tripoli in late 2003 shows he was an agent for another European intelligence agency, but that MI6 wanted him too. Alan is obviously anxious about the situation, as the letters make clear. The correspondence gives just a glimpse of the gauntlet run by informers – the risks they take and the dangers they face.
The memos are addressed to Sadeq Krema, the head of Libyan international relations.
Greetings from MI6 in London. We phoned Alan and arranged a meeting the following day in Manchester at 4.30pm … gave him directions to Malmaison hotel where we had booked a room. Alan arrived on his own and we greeted each other in the foyer. He was nervous. He had had a paranoid walk to the hotel across Manchester with too much eye contact from passers-by that had unduly [un]nerved him. We reassured him by going over the cover story we had discussed when we met in Tripoli. We would not be seen in public but in the unlikely event that anyone saw us in the hotel I would simply be his business contact. Furthermore there no links between the hotel booking and MI6. Alan explained his concerns. The last few days in the UK had been tense, not because he had been asked to do anything (he hadn't) but because the atmosphere in the mosques was uncomfortable. He had been in three mosques in Manchester in the last week. Newcomers were viewed as suspicious. The high profile arrest operations in the UK and the relentless talk of planned terrorist attacks had, in his opinion, heightened the paranoia within these communities with regards to the presence of spies and informers. His access to information on terrorist planning was, unless he was a part of it, just impossible to access. Alan was now eager for clarity and reassurances of how the terms of engagement would work. We went over what he had been doing since arriving in the UK and whom he had met. He had also paid visits to Wigan, Blackpool and Liverpool.
The letter from MI6 to the Libyans explains that Alan was told that he must not reveal to the secret service of the other European country that he had been in contact with British intelligence.
We told Alan that under no circumstances was he to tell [them] of his involvement with us or the Libyans. We would do this when we were ready. We understood the need to do this as soon as possible … We are now coming to them at the earliest opportunity having assessed that Alan is prepared to work for us. Alan had one more question regarding his security. [We assured him] the protection of the source of the information was always of paramount importance. We were an intelligence service, not a law enforcement agency. Before taking any action on his intelligence we would always discuss it with him first. This was how we worked. Alan was content.
A follow up letter is sent from MI6 to the Libyans in January, 2004, which makes clear that the British have now told the other European country about MI6's determination to run Alan as an agent.
FAO of Mr Sadeq Krema and Mr Abdul Wahid New year's greetings from SIS in London After consultation with your director Mr Musa Kusa we held a meeting with our colleagues to declare our involvement to date in our Anglo-Libyan joint operations [Alan]. The [agency] was particulary interested in working with us on this case but agreed to do nothing in approaching the subject until they had had a chance to discuss the matter internally at a senior level. Regards and best wishes for 2004
Western allies of MI6 'kept in dark’ over mosque sting plan
MI6 and Col Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan intelligence service set up a radical mosque in a Western European city in order to lure in al-Qaeda terrorists, it can be revealed.
Britain was encouraging Col Gaddafi to give up plans for weapons of mass destruction Photo: ALAMY
By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor
9:00PM BST 21 Apr 2012
The joint operation, which was undertaken as Britain attempted to secure a deal with Col Gaddafi to reopen diplomatic relations, shows how closely Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service was prepared to work with his regime’s spies despite widespread allegations of human rights abuses.
At the time, Britain was encouraging Col Gaddafi to give up plans for weapons of mass destruction. Four months later, the dictator and Tony Blair, then prime minister, struck the 2004 “deal in the desert” which ended Libya’s pariah status.
The cooperation extended to recruiting an agent to infiltrate an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in the Western European city, which cannot be named for security reasons.
The double agent, codenamed Joseph, was closely connected to a senior al-Qaeda commander in Iraq and had been identified as a possible spy by the ESO, Libya’s external intelligence service, on a visit to Tripoli.
MI6 began recruiting the agent without telling its allies in the European country where he lived.
The agency agreed a narrative with the agent and the ESO to fool their allies about when and how the agent had been recruited and the operation launched.
Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which were sent from MI6 headquarters in London to Moussa Koussa, the Libyan intelligence chief, give a detailed outline of this subterfuge, the agent’s recruitment and plans for the operation. The papers were left behind in Tripoli as Col Gaddafi’s regime crumbled.
The plan raises questions about the SIS, MI6’s close links with the Libyan regime and whether it was acting on government orders.
Last week it was disclosed that Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, is facing legal action over claims he signed off the rendition to Tripoli in March 2004 of an alleged Libyan terrorist leader accused of links to Osama bin Laden, claims that had been previously denied in Parliament.
But now it can be disclosed that secret anti-terrorist operations in Europe involving MI6 and Libyan intelligence began four months earlier with a series of meetings in the UK.
In December 2003, “Joseph” and a Libyan intelligence officer were flown to meetings at British hotels to discuss setting up a mosque to attract North African Islamic extremists.
They hoped to gain “information on terrorist planning”. MI6 paid for one Libyan intelligence officer, who had previously worked under diplomatic cover in the UK, to stay in a five-star central London hotel and smoothed his passage through immigration at Heathrow to “avoid the problems he experienced on his previous visit”.
A secret memo sent to Libyan intelligence in Tripoli details an early meeting with the apparently reluctant new agent in a city in the north of England.
“Our meeting in the UK on this occasion was to explore further with 'Joseph’ just what he might be prepared to do,” it said.
Headed “Greetings from MI6 London” it says: “ 'Joseph’ was nervous. He had had a paranoid walk to the hotel across [UK city] with too much eye contact from passers-by that had unduly unnerved him.
“We reassured him by going over the cover story we had discussed when we met in Tripoli. We would not be seen together in public but, in the unlikely event that anyone saw us in the hotel, I would simply be his business contact. Furthermore, there was no link between the hotel booking and MI6.
“ 'Joseph’ agreed to work with SIS but still required reassurance. A second meeting took place a few days later when MI6 and Libyan officers met 'Joseph’ at one five-star hotel and then travelled in separate taxis to” a second hotel to ensure they were not being watched.
The memo adds: “We told 'Joseph’ that under no circumstances was he to tell the [European intelligence service of country where he lived and was planning to operate] of his involvement with us and the Libyans. We would do this when we were ready.”
The agent had, the note says, already been approached by this Western intelligence service but he was told to “stall his meeting” with them.
A strategy was agreed to keep the other Western intelligence service in the dark about the full extent of their contact with the agent.
It added that MI6’s allies would later be told the agent had been recruited “as a result of our ongoing counter terrorism relationship with ESO, [and we] sought to capitalise on the relationship struck up with 'Joseph’.”
The operation was run behind the backs of Western allies in the chosen city. Critics are likely to question whether it could have backfired, with a terrorist cell launching an attack using the mosque as a base.
The disclosures come in the wake of the accusation that Mr Straw gave the green light to the plan to seize Abdelhakim Belhadj, one of the military commanders who helped to overthrow Gaddafi’s regime last year, and his pregnant wife and put them on a CIA flight.
Secret documents outlining the rendition plan, published by The Sunday Telegraph last February, showed how MI6 tipped off Libya that Mr Belhadj was being held by immigration officials in Malaysia and that the secret CIA flight was scheduled to refuel at an airbase on Diego Garcia, a British sovereign territory in the Indian Ocean.
Once Mr Belhadj was in custody in Libya, Sir Mark Allen, MI6’s then counter terrorism chief, sent a letter to Mr Koussa, saying: “This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built.”
The evidence contradicted government statements denying British involvements in renditions. Last week Mr Belhadj’s lawyers said they had issued legal proceedings against Colin Roberts, the Foreign Office official responsible for Diego Garcia.