Libyan dissident gets £2.2m payout from Government over rendition to Libya

Sami al-Saadi, a leading Gaddafi opponent, was imprisoned and tortured after he was forced to board a plane back to Tripoli

A Libyan dissident who claimed MI6 played a key role in his rendition to Tripoli where he was tortured and imprisoned by the Gaddafi regime has agreed to a £2.2m payout from the British government.

Sami al-Saadi, who claims he, his wife and four children, were forcibly returned from Hong Kong to Libya with the help of British agents, said he was accepting compensation  because his family “had suffered enough”.

The settlement is similar to the multi-million pound payout made by the Government to British inmates at Guantanamo Bay to avoid a lengthy and potentially embarrassing court case which could have revealed the level of British intelligence’s co-operation with despotic regimes. 

Although Mr Saadi has accepted compensation, a second Libyan dissident, Abdulhakim Belhaj, has vowed to continue with his legal challenge. Mr Belhaj, an Islamist dissident who claims he was sent with his pregnant wife from Thailand to Libya, became commander in the revolutionary forces that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

His legal battle could shed light on the role MI6 played in relation to Gaddafi’s government following the 2004 “deal in the desert” made by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. This brought the Libyan dictator in from the cold and encouraged Gaddafi to abandon his weapons of mass destruction programme in return for investment and help in tracking down opponents of his regime.

Mr Belhaj is suing the former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and a former senior MI6 official, Sir Mark Allen, as part of his action. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Reacting to the Saadi settlement last night, Mr Straw said: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say much more about all this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Under the terms of the Saadi settlement, the Government has not accepted liability. But papers found in the office of Gaddafi’s former spy-chief Moussa Koussa suggested US and British intelligence colluded in the rendition of both Mr Saadi and Mr Belhaj.

CIA correspondence discussing Mr Saadi’s rendition stated: “We are … aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect [al-Saadi’s] removal to Tripoli … the Hong Kong government may be able to co-ordinate with you to render [al-Saadi] and his family into your custody.”

A letter from MI6’s then head of counter-terrorism Sir Mark Allen referred to Mr Belhaj’s rendition. “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of [Belhaj].

This was the least we could do for you and for Libya,” the letter read. “I know I did not pay for the air cargo [but] the intelligence [on him] was British.”

In a statement, Mr Saadi explained why he had accepted a payout. “[My children] will now have the chance to complete their education in the new, free Libya,” he said. “I will be able to afford the medical care I need because of the injuries I suffered in prison. I started this process believing a trial would get to the truth. But today, with the Government trying to push through secret courts, I feel to proceed is not best for my family.”

Deal in the desert: The players

Tony Blair:

The British Prime Minister flew to Libya in 2004 and – in a desert tent surrounded by camels – welcomed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in from the cold, right. The “deal in the desert” pesuaded Gaddafi to give up his WMD programme in return for investment and co-operation in catching violent jihadists opposed to his brutal regime.

Jack Straw:

Jack Straw As Foreign Secretary at the time of Mr Belhaj and Mr Saadi’s rendition to Libya, questions have been asked about how much he knew of the level of co-operation between Libyan and British intelligence. Mr Belhaj has launched a legal action against Mr Straw, below, who denies any wrongdoing and insists he followed the law.

Sir Mark Allen:

A career spy and Arabist, he was head of MI6’s counter-terrorism unit at the time of Mr Belhaj and Mr Saadi’s rendition and is also being sued by Mr Belhaj. He has since left the secret service.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones