Straw must account for MI6 role in 'rendition'


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Former ministers in Tony Blair's government are expected to be questioned by police over their alleged role in human rights abuse, in a new Scotland Yard investigation into how dissidents were sent to Libya to be imprisoned and tortured. The focus will be the involvement of MI6 in the arrest and rendition of two men.

Jack Straw, Tony Blair's Foreign Secretary between 2001 and 2006, will be interviewed, police and Whitehall officials pointed out, as he would have had to "sign off" operations by MI6 at the time in question. One senior official stressed: "These [operations] were in line with ministerially authorised government policy."

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, inset, and the Met Police declared in a joint statement: "The allegations raised in the two specific cases concerning the alleged rendition of named individuals to Libya and the alleged ill-treatment of them in Libya are so serious that it is in the public interest for them to be investigated now rather than at the conclusion of the Detainee Inquiry."

The two Libyan victims are known to be Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military commander in the new Libyan government. Mr Belhaj, 45, was arrested with his wife in 2004 en route to the UK to seek asylum. He was held for six years in prisons in Libya.

A source close to Mr Belhaj, who is suing the UK government, told i: "British police are welcome to carry out their investigations here... but Abdul Hakim will continue with his legal action, which he only began after failing to get an apology from the British Government."

Files discovered by i in Tripoli after the fall of Col Gaddafi's regime contained letters from Sir Mark Allen, then MI6's head of counter-terrorism, to Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, which seemed only too keen to acknowledge his service's role in the capture and transportation of Mr Belhaj, stressing: "The intelligence about Abu'Abd Allah [a nom de guerre for Mr Belhaj] was British."

At the time, Mr Belhaj told i that British agents who had visited him in Tripoli were aware of his mistreatment.

Mr Straw refused to discuss the developments. His office pointed to a previous statement in which he had welcomed the scrutiny of the Gibson Inquiry into detainee abuse, set up by David Cameron last autumn.