7 October 2011
An opponent of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime who was ‘rendered’ along with his wife and four young children to Libya by British security services in 2004 has begun legal action against the UK Government over its role in his ordeal.
Sami al Saadi (also known as Abu Munthir) says he feels compelled to act to ensure that the truth is known, and to prevent others from suffering as he and his family have suffered. He has described how, during his detention and rendition, he saw his daughter lose consciousness and his wife “screaming as they were handcuffed”. Upon reaching Libya he was separated from his family and imprisoned; his children were aged 13, 11, 9 and 6 years old at the time.
Documents discovered after the overthrow of Gaddafi show that British personnel were instrumental in the detention of Sami Al Saadi in Hong Kong and his subsequent rendition to Libya in 2004, where he was subjected to years of torture. The documents also support Mr Al Saadi’s claim that UK agents interrogated him whilst he was in secret detention in Libya.
Since coming to light, Mr Al Saadi’s case has become notorious. It is one of few known examples of the rendition of an entire family, including young children, to a country where British intelligence must have known they would face torture.
It is also significant in showing UK officials not simply assisting, but actively organising, the rendition process. A March 2004 fax from the CIA to Libyan intelligence confirms that the Libyans “had been cooperating with the British to effect Abu Munthir’s removal to Tripoli”.
Mr Al Saadi has instructed London law firm Leigh Day & Co to bring a claim against MI5, MI6, the Attorney General, the Foreign Office and the Home Office “for their alleged complicity in his extraordinary rendition from Hong Kong to Tripoli in March 2004; [and] his subsequent unlawful detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults perpetrated by the Libyan authorities”.
Sami al Saadi said: "My first feeling when the door to the rendition plane opened in Hong Kong, and I saw the Libyans, was a mixture of sadness and anger. I was extremely upset to see my wife screaming while handcuffed. My daughter also lost consciousness at the time. The British had guaranteed my safety. It honestly never occurred to me that they would deliberately send anyone to Gaddafi's torture chambers. I was wrong, and my worry is that others we do not know about suffered the same fate. I want the full truth to be told in court so that we can stop this from happening again."
Richard Stein, Head of Human Rights at Leigh Day & Co said: “Mr Al Saadi’s case throws a direct spotlight onto the actions of the British who appear to have been embroiled in his rendition to Libya when it was clear that he would face almost certain torture. This legal action will ensure that the full truth behind Mr Al Saadi's experience, and that of his young family who were also rendered and imprisoned, is revealed exposing just how high up the chain of command these illegal activities were sanctioned.”
Cori Crider, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: "The rendition of an entire family, including young children, by British intelligence has to represent a new low – even by the dubious standards of the Blair era. We need to know just how far up Government knowledge of this shameful event, and any others like it, went. Did the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw know? Was Tony Blair aware? The Metropolitan Police must now launch a full investigation, focusing on the highest levels of Government and the intelligence services."
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