By Sergei Sayenko
Two Libyan citizens are suing Mark Allen, a top counter-terrorism officer of the British MI6 secret intelligence service, over cooperation between MI6 and the former regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Former dissidents Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhadj claim that Sir Mark Allen was complicit in their arrest and extradition to Libya in 2004, the BBC reports. Sergei Sayenko has some details.
On Friday, the plaintiffs initiated formal proceedings against Sir Mark Allen. They allege that CIA agents were also involved in tracking them down. After being extradited, along with their families, to Gaddafi’s Libya, both dissidents were subjected to torture and their wives and children suffered ill-treatment.
The lawyers for the two men say that they are seeking compensation for the appalling abuse they had suffered. They are also preparing to sue the British Foreign Office and the Home Office.
The papers submitted by the plaintiffs include a letter allegedly written by Sir Mark Allen in March 2004 to Libya’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa. The letter says that the two men’s extradition was the least Britain could do “for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship” London and Tripoli had “built over the years”. If Sir Mark denies involvement, Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhadj intend to demand a public inquiry into that shameful affair to find out who authorized it. Sir Mark has declined to comment on the allegations.
The very fact of Libyans taking legal action against a high-ranking British intelligence officer is quite extraordinary, particularly given London’s earlier assurances that counter-terrorism cooperation with Libya had only targeted Al Qaeda Islamists, who had been located and kidnapped by MI6 and CIA agents in various parts of the world and handed over to Libyan or Egyptian secret services for questioning. Now it appears that not only Al Qaeda suspects but also Libyan dissidents were haunted.
When the case was first reported last September, the Foreign Office refused to comment on the former ties between the British authorities and the Gaddafi regime, saying that it was not authorized to comment on matters involving secret services. Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time of the extraditions, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair both sought to distance themselves from this affair and said that they knew nothing of the Libyan renditions. But Kim Howells, the chair of the British Parliament’s security and intelligence committee, confirmed that the MI6 had cooperated with Libya’s intelligence services after the 9/11 terrorist acts in the United States.
In all probability, the sued party will rely on the 1994 Intelligence Services Act that grants intelligence officers immunity from prosecution if their actions were authorized by the government.
Accusations of British secret services’ involvement in illegal kidnappings and torture have been brought forward before and each time London somehow managed to come out unscathed as, for example, in November 2010, when 12 former Guantanamo detainees sued the British government over torture. They withdrew their lawsuit after Britain had agreed to pay them millions of pounds in damages.