Libyan commander quizzes envoy on rendition

By Joe Churcher
Monday 10 October 2011 15:56
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The military commander of the Libyan rebels sought answers from a top UK diplomat today over claims of British involvement in his rendition and torture.

Abdul Hakim Belhadj raised the issue during a meeting in Tripoli with Dominic Asquith, the Government's special representative to Libya.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the talks focused on the security situation in the Libyan capital and next steps following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.

But the rendition and torture claims - which are to be examined by the Gibson Inquiry into wider allegations of UK collusion in torture - were also discussed.

"We're focusing on moving forward and will work with all of those who are supporting Libya's democratic transition and are committed to realising the aspirations of the Libyan people," the spokesman said.

"The meeting with Abdul Hakim Belhadj focused on the security situation in Tripoli and the NTC's progress in helping life in Tripoli return to normal."

Asked about the rendition claims, the spokesman said: "Abdul Hakim Belhadj raised this issue.

"The special representative said that we take these claims very seriously and explained that last year the Prime Minister set up the Gibson Inquiry to examine whether the security services were involved in the improper treatment of detainees overseas, including rendition.

"He told Belhadj that the inquiry has announced that it will look carefully at these latest allegations."

Documents uncovered by Human Rights Watch in the offices of Gaddafi's former security chief Musa Kusa suggested that the UK was involved in helping Libya detain terror suspects including Belhadj.

Belhadj is reported to be demanding an apology from London for its involvement in his 2004 rendition and subsequent imprisonment, during which he says he was tortured.

According to one of the documents found, MI6 dispatched an intelligence officer to Tripoli after Belhadj's detention to obtain information of "urgent importance" from him relating to UK anti-terrorist operations.

At the time, he was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was affiliated to al-Qa'ida.

PA

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