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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

UK told to hand over secret police torture report

Lawyers say the government has two weeks to deliver dossier on intelligence officer's alleged role in abduction of Libyan dissident

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, centre, the rebel military commander suing the British government over his rendition from Thailand. Francois Mori / AP Photo
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, centre, the rebel military commander suing the British government over his rendition from Thailand. Francois Mori / AP Photo

A judge has ordered the British government to hand over a 400-page police report into the alleged role of a senior intelligence officer in the abduction and torture of a prominent Libyan dissident, lawyers said on Tuesday.

London’s High Court said the government had two weeks to hand over the dossier to the legal team for Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who is seeking an apology from the UK after he was snatched and returned to Libya in 2004.

Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar say they were detained by the CIA in Thailand after a tipoff from the British intelligence service MI6. They say that masked CIA officers strapped them to stretchers and put them on an aeroplane bound for Libya.

While in Libya, the regime of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi detained Mr Belhaj – a leader of the hardline Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – for six years. Mr Belhaj said that he was tortured during his time in detention and interrogated by British intelligence officers who would have known what was going on. His pregnant wife was held for five months.

The UK’s role emerged when a letter was found after the downfall of the Qaddafi regime in which the senior British intelligence officer, Mark Allen, congratulated his counterpart over the successful rendition.

“This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” according to the letter, which confirmed that the UK supplied the intelligence against Mr Belhaj.

Mr Belhaj’s lawyers want the police dossier for their long-awaited case seeking an apology and a token sum from the UK government for his treatment. The UK government has successfully argued should be held in secret for national security reasons.

Mr Belhaj’s legal team is separately seeking a review of the decision not to prosecute Mark Allen for misconduct. The 400-page report was compiled by Scotland Yard after allegations emerged of UK involvement in the torture of Qaddafi opponents. It was passed to prosecutors but they decided in June 2016 not to prosecute Mr Allen.

“Piece by piece the government’s attempt to withhold evidence is crumbling,” said Cori Crider, the pair’s lawyer at rights’ group Reprieve. “This thorough police report will be important evidence of (intelligence agency) MI6’s involvement in illegal torture and rendition.”

The UK government is expected to seek safeguards on the public release of the details in the police file, according to Reprieve. The UK’s Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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