Ministers have agree to pay more than £2m to the family of a prominent Libyan dissident abducted with the help of MI6 and secretly flown to Tripoli where he was tortured by the security police of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator, Sami
al-Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong with his wife and four
young children in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation. They were then flown to Libya, where all of them were initially imprisoned. Saadi was held and tortured for years.
Saadi family had accepted a settlement of £2.23m, the high court heard
on Thursday. The government paid the sum by way of compensation and
without admitting any liability.
Evidence of the UK's role in the
operation – believed to be the only case where an entire family was
subjected to "extraordinary rendition" – came to light after Gaddafi's fall in 2011.
correspondence with Libyan intelligence, found in the spy chief Moussa
Koussa's office in Tripoli by Human Rights Watch, states: "We are …
aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect
[Saadi's] removal to Tripoli … the Hong Kong government may be able to
co-ordinate with you to render [Saadi] and his family into your
The operation was arranged in 2004 at the time of Tony
Blair's "deal in the desert" with Gaddafi, after which UK intelligence
services helped track down and hand over his opponents.
Another Libyan victim was Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was rendered alongside his pregnant wife. A letter from the MI6
head of counter-terrorism Sir Mark Allen to Koussa, also found in
Tripoli, said: "I congratulate you on the safe arrival of [Belhaj]. This
was the least we could do for you and for Libya. I know I did not pay
for the air cargo [but] the intelligence [on him] was British."
Belhaj is pursuing his legal action against the British government.
said on Thursday: "My family suffered enough when they were kidnapped
and flown to Gaddafi's Libya. They will now have the chance to complete
their education in the new, free Libya. I will be able to afford the
medical care I need because of the injuries I suffered in prison."
said: "I started this process believing that a British trial would get
to the truth in my case. But today, with the government trying to push
through secret courts, I feel that to proceed is not best for my family.
I went through a secret trial once before, in Gaddafi's Libya. In many
ways, it was as bad as the torture. It is not an experience I care to
"Even now, the British government has never given an
answer to the simple question: 'Were you involved in the kidnap of me,
my wife and my children?' I think the payment speaks for itself."
He said his family would donate some of the proceeds to support other Libyan torture victims.
look forward to the result of the police investigation and hope there
will be a full and fair public inquiry into our case," he said.
eldest daughter, Khadija, who was rendered to Libya aged 12, said: "I
wrote to [the then justice secretary] Ken Clarke when I heard about the
secret courts plan, but he would not say that he would not seek to try
my case in secret. I still feel this would have been unnecessary, unfair
and unworthy of the UK. I hope the inquiry will be as open and as fair
as the phone-hacking inquiry."
Kat Craig, legal director of the
charity Reprieve, which acts for the two families, said: "We now know
that Tony Blair's 'deal in the desert' was bought with ugly compromises.
Perhaps the ugliest was for MI6 to deliver a whole family to one of the
world's most brutal dictators."
Sapna Malik, of Leigh Day, the
law firm representing the families, said:
"The sheer terror experienced
by the Saadi family when they were bundled on to their rendition flight
and delivered up to their nemesis clearly lives with them all to this
day. Having concluded one part of their quest for justice, they now look
to the British criminal courts to hold those responsible for their
ordeal to account and await the judge-led inquiry they have been
Belhaj, who last year led the battle for Tripoli, said:
"When my friend Sami al-Saadi was freed from Abu Salim prison on 23
August 2011, he weighed seven stone. He was close to death. It is a
miracle he survived his ordeal and is home with his family."
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