Price of Blair's tawdry deal in the desert: 2m payout to buy silence of dissident handed over to Gaddafi's torturersSami al-Saadi says his family were captured and flown via Hong Kong to be handed over to Colonel GaddafiUK government denies liability for the extraordinary rendition in 2004It came after Tony Blair's infamous 'deal in the desert' with GaddafiDocuments found after Gaddafi's downfall showed the CIA knew of the British involvement Human rights groups call for a full inquiry into the case



23:39 GMT, 13 December 2012

Payout: Sami al Saadi was given 2.2m to 'buy his silence'

Payout: Sami al Saadi was given 2.2m to 'buy his silence'

A dissident abducted and handed to Colonel Gaddafi’s torturers with the alleged help of Tony Blair’s government was given 2.2million last night to buy his silence.

Sami al Saadi, 45, was dispatched with his wife and four young children back to his native Libya where he was imprisoned and maltreated.

The ‘rendition’ operation – conducted with apparent MI6 support – took place only three days after Mr Blair visited Libya for the now infamous 2004 ‘deal in the desert’.

Evidence of Britain’s role emerged in documents found after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. For years, Labour ministers denied involvement in rendition.

Mr al Saadi sued MI5, MI6, the Foreign Office and Home Office as well as ex-foreign secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 spy.

Yesterday the High Court was told a settlement had been reached under which he and his family will receive 2.23million.

The Government released a short statement insisting there had been ‘no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability’. It did not address any of the allegations made.

Mr Straw released a carefully worded statement, in which he did not deny sanctioning the operation.

He said: ‘At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law and I hope to be able to say much more about all this at an appropriate stage in the future.’

The hush money – thought to be the biggest ever payout to a former terror suspect – prevents the exposure of embarrassing secrets about Britain’s alleged role in the kidnap and ‘rendition’ operation.

Kat Craig, a director of the legal campaign group Reprieve, said: ‘We now know that Tony Blair’s deal in the desert was bought with ugly compromises.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi

Evidence of Britain’s role during the reign of Blair (left) has emerged in documents found after the fall of the Gaddafi (right) regime

‘Perhaps the ugliest was for MI6 to deliver a whole family to one of the world’s most brutal dictators.’

In 2004, Mr al Saadi, also known as Abu Munthir, was a leading member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and living in China.

He and his wife and four children, then aged six, nine, 11 and 13, were lured to Hong Kong where they were abducted by the CIA, flown to Tripoli and handed over to Gaddafi’s henchmen.

How Britain Courted Gaddafi

How Britain Courted Gaddafi

They were handcuffed, hoods were placed over their heads and their legs were bound with wire.

His wife and children were released after two months but Mr al Saadi was jailed for six years, brutally beaten, given electric shocks and told he was facing death.

After he was released from six years in prison he took a leading role in the downfall of the regime in 2011.

Evidence of Britain’s involvement was found in the ruins of the headquarters building of Libya’s infamous security chief, Musa Kusa.

A CIA fax read: ‘We are … aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect (Sami al Saadi’s) removal to Tripoli.’

Two days after the fax was sent Mr Blair arrived for ‘deal in the desert’ which secured lucrative oil deals for BP and brought Libya in from the cold. It also paved the way for the hugely-controversial release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

The rendition operation took place three days later.

Earlier this year Mr al Saadi launched the legal action with another tortured Libyan fighter, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, which accused Mr Straw and Sir Mark of liability for false imprisonment, complicity in torture and mistreatment, misfeasance in public office and negligence.

Mr Belhadj and his pregnant wife were seized in Malaysia in 2004 and flown to Tripoli on a CIA jet, which it is claimed flew via Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj

Jack Straw

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, now a Libyan military
commander, also claims he was a victim of UK-backed illegal rendition,
but former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has dismissed the claims
as 'conspiracy theories'

A letter from Sir Mark to Kusa, 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.’

Last night Mr al Saadi said he had accepted the payment to help pay for his medical care and his children’s education. He added: ‘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 repeat.’

The Justice and Security Bill, which contains the secret court plans, will go before the Commons next week. Critics say it will undermine open justice and allow embarrassing secrets to be buried. Last year Britain agreed a multi-million pound settlement with 16 terror suspects, including former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, over alleged British involvement in their mistreatment.

Former MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove has described the decision to cooperate with Libya on terror suspects as a ‘political decision’.

A public inquiry into rendition and complicity in torture was shelved indefinitely last year, after Scotland Yard launched its investigation into the Libya cases.

The second case is set to continue because Mr Belhadj has insisted he will ‘fight to ensure the truth is told’.


Others who claim they have been tortured or mistreated by the security services include:

BINYAM MOHAMED Last year 16 terror suspects received around 1million each over Britain’s alleged role in their mistreatment.

One, Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, has claimed British agents were complicit in his torture and that the Security Service handed information to the US government about him.
Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 33, arrived in the UK in 1994 as a schoolboy seeking asylum.

He travelled to Afghanistan in 2001, and the US claimed he received weapons training at an Al Qaeda camp and plotted to detonate a radioactive bomb in America.

He was arrested in 2002 and sent to a CIA prison in Kabul, then transferred to Morocco, where he says he was repeatedly beaten and had his genitals cut. In 2004 he was sent to Guantanamo Bay where he was held until his return to the UK in 2009.

BISHER AL RAWI Arrived at 16 from Iraq but overstayed a visitor’s visa. Spent more than four years in Guantanamo after being seized in the Gambia.

Al Rawi, 41, was also accused of being associated with radical cleric Abu Qatada.

RICHARD BELMAR London-born Belmar, 30, converted to Islam in 1999 and travelled to Afghanistan in 2001.

Arrested in Pakistan 12 months later he was held for three years in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo.

OMAR DEGHAYES Libyan national, 40, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and handed to US authorities after, his lawyers say, being wrongly identified in a terror video.

MOAZZAM BEGG The 41-year-old ran a Muslim bookshop in Birmingham before moving to Afghanistan. Captured in Pakistan in 2002 by the CIA, who said he was an Al Qaeda recruiter.

THE TIPTON THREE Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, from Tipton in the West Midlands, were caught in Afghanistan and accused of Taliban links.

They were held in US custody, including at Guantanamo Bay, for more than two years.