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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game