Cameron orders probe into claims UK sent dissident back to Gaddafi


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The Independent Online

David Cameron will seek to "remove any stain" on Britain's reputation following accusations that security services helped return a Libyan dissident to Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

The Prime Minister warned yesterday against a "rush to judgement" over the conduct of the security services, as he announced measures to deal with the allegations.

"My concern throughout has been not only to remove any stain on Britain's reputation but also to deal with these accusations of malpractice so as to enable our security services to get on with the vital work that they do," he told MPs.

An inquiry already examining alleged UK complicity in the torture and rendition of terror suspects sent to Guantanamo Bay is to consider the new claims as a matter of urgency. It is expected to begin investigating the allegations – found in paperwork left in an abandoned Libyan government office – within weeks.

Mr Cameron promised that fears the UK and Libyan security services became "too close" would be fully examined, but he repeatedly praised MI5 and MI6.

Documents found in Tripoli appear to suggest the UK traded information with Colonel Gaddafi's government in return for intelligence extracted from terror suspects under interrogation in Libyan prisons.

The papers imply Britain was involved in the rendition of Abdelhakim Belhaj, who was at the time a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was affiliated to al-Qa'ida. Now a commander in the rebel forces which overthrew Gaddafi with British support, he says he was held in isolation, and regularly tortured. He has demanded an apology from the CIA and MI6 for their alleged role in his rendition.

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time, said the last Government strongly opposed the use of torture and denied turning a blind eye to it.

A parliamentary inquiry could also be launched into the claims. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, said he was seeking "clarification" from MI5 and MI6 about "the nature and extent of intelligence-sharing with the Libyan security services and the rendition of Libyan nationals".