18 April 2012
Lawyers for the Libyan Military Commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj have confirmed that legal papers have been served on the former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw following revelations in the Sunday Times (15 April 2012) that he has been confronted with evidence by MI6 officers, which confirms he signed off on the illegal rendition to Libya of Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima.
This is believed to be the first time legal action of this kind has been taken against a former Foreign Secretary.
The Civil Action is against Mr Straw personally and seeks his response to allegations that he was complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office. It seeks to examine his exact role in the rendition of Mr Al Saadi and Mr Belhaj as well as claiming damages from him personally for the trauma involved.
However, Mr Belhaj has consistently made clear that his predominant aim in taking legal action is to seek an apology for what took place and for the truth to be known.
In a letter dated 17 April 2012 Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers for Mr Belhaj and Mr Al Saadi, ask Mr Straw to produce a number of documents including those described in the Sunday Times article.
Other documents include communications sent from Mr Straw or agents to the former Libyan government pertaining to Mr Belhaj and Mr Al Sadadi as well as Mr Straw’s diaries, memoirs and/or notes over the period March 2004 to March 2010.
The revelations could lead to Mr Straw facing criminal prosecution as the Metropolitan Police widen their criminal inquiry into the allegations of Mr Belhaj and Sami Al Saadi and their families.
Both men were opponents to the Gaddafi regime; both men and their families were allegedly illegally rendered back to Libya with the assistance of the UK Government & security services.
The case is further strengthened by a number of documents which came to light after the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
One of which is from Sir Mark Allen, to Moussa Koussa, The Head of the Libyan Secret Service under Gaddafi, dated 18 March 2004, passing on thanks for helping to sort out Tony Blair’s visit to Gaddafi. It states:
“Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week. Abu ‘Abd Allah’s information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us.
“Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu ‘Abd Allah through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on Abu ‘Abd Allah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful for the help you are giving us.”
Sir Mark left MI6 in 2004 to join BP, for which it is reported he later helped arrange lucrative oil and gas contracts in Libya. According to reports he presided over a celebratory lunch in the Travellers Club in Pall Mall, London, in December 2003. The leader of the Libyan delegation was Moussa Koussa.
Sapna Malik, Partner at law firm Leigh Day & Co who is representing Mr Al Saadi, Mr Belhaj and their families said:
“We have said all along that liability must follow the chain of command. These latest revelations bring us closer to that goal. If the former Foreign Secretary does not now own up to his role in this extraordinary affair, he will need to face the prospect of trying to defend his position in court.”
Cori Crider, Legal Director of Reprieve said:
“When scandals like this break, the political paymasters almost never face the music. For once, there’s a chance things might be different.
“We’ve said from the start that the minister responsible for this mess needed to admit their role. Now that we seem to know who it was, it’s time for Jack Straw to account – and atone – for what he did.”
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