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Formal legal proceedings issued at the High Court against Jack Straw in Libyan rendition case

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw facing legal scrutiny

28 June 2012

  • Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair could give evidence under oath
  • Case linked to Government haste to bring in secret trials to ‘hide truth’ 

Lawyers for two men, who were allegedly illegally rendered to Libya by the British intelligence services, have confirmed that they have today (28 June 2012) issued formal legal proceedings at the High Court against the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, Sir Mark Allen.

This is the latest step towards both men having to give their version of events surrounding the rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami Al Saadi, in a court of law. The trial could see the former Prime Minister Tony Blair called to give evidence, under oath, as early as next year.

The issuing of formal legal proceedings follows a ‘letter before action’ sent in April 2012 to Jack Straw by law firm Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers for Mr Belhaj and Mr Al Saadi.

The letter asked Mr Straw to produce a number of documents, including communications sent from Mr Straw or agents to the former Libyan government pertaining to Mr Belhaj and Mr Al Saadi as well as Mr Straw’s diaries, memoirs and/or notes over the period March 2004 to March 2010.

A similar letter was sent in January 2012 to Sir Mark, alerting him to impending legal action against him.

The letters sought a response to the allegations that both men were complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office. 

However, Leigh Day & Co has confirmed that the response received from the Treasury Solicitor to their letters is ‘insufficient’. In relation to Sir Mark, legal representatives for Whitehall chose neither to ‘confirm or deny’ the allegations or that any documents exist pertaining to the events surrounding the rendition of Mr Belhadj and Mr Al Saadi.

Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day & Co said:

“It is extraordinary that in light of such clear evidence of the involvement of the British Government, in what we believe was illegal activity, they have chosen the stock response of neither confirming nor denying their complicity.

“Following this insufficient response to our clients’ request we have now issued formal legal proceedings against both Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen in the High Court”

The allegations, that both Mr Belhaj and his pregnant wife Fatima and Sami Al Saadi and his wife and children were illegally rendered to Libya, are believed to be instrumental to the decision by the Government to seek secret trials, held behind closed doors away from the public’s scrutiny, in cases where the intelligence services are accused. 

The Justice & Security Bill, which opponents claim has been rushed through Parliament, seeks to allow civil claims such as these, concerning the security and intelligence services, to be held behind closed doors.

Closed material procedures (CMPs) would allow sensitive evidence to be given in court but not seen by all the participants. Defendants or Claimants and their courtroom representatives would also be barred from the closed part of a hearing.

Ms Malik continued: “We can’t help but make the link between our client’s cases and the current obsession by this Government on closed trials which offend the fundamental principles of justice in this country and would succeed in hiding the truth behind these allegations and similar accusations of illegal activity by the security services on the instruction of politicians.”

Cori Crider, Legal Director of Reprieve said:
“Khadidja Al Saadi [Sami Al Saadi’s daughter] wrote to Ken Clarke a month ago, asking him to explain why she was rendered to Libya at the age of twelve with her family.  She also asked why he apparently felt her case should be heard in secret. Ken has ignored the letter, so the Saadis have decided to let the government make its case in court.

“The Al Saadi and Belhaj cases will probably be first in line for the cover-up the government has planned in the so-called ‘Justice and Security Bill’.  Some would say the Bill’s entire purpose is to hide scandals like the rendition of Khadidja Al Saadi. It’s not too late to stop the government scrapping British justice, but legislators need to wake up in a hurry.”

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