Scotland Yard is to investigate allegations that British intelligence agencies were complicit in the rendition and subsequent torture of a one-time Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj, now a commander of the rebel forces who toppled the Qadhafi government, it was announced on Thursday.
Mr. Belhaj, who was accused of being a terror suspect by the Qadhafi administration, claims that he was taken to Libya in a CIA and MI6 operation in 2004 after being arrested in Bangkok. He says he was tortured in Libya and is demanding an apology from the British government.
In a statement, the police said it had received a similar complaint from another Libyan.
“The allegations raised in the two specific cases concerning the alleged rendition of named individuals to Libya and the alleged ill-treatment of them in Libya are so serious that it is in the public interest for them to be investigated now rather than at the conclusion of the Detainee Inquiry,” it said referring to a separate ongoing independent inquiry into allegations of rendition.
The inquiry, led by a retired judge Sir Peter Gibson, was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron last autumn “to examine issues around the detention and treatment of terrorist suspects overseas''.
“My concern throughout has been not only to remove any stain on Britain's reputation but also to deal with these accusations of malpractice so as to enable our security services to get on with the vital work that they do,” he said announcing the inquiry.
It followed claims by a former Guantanamo detenu, Binyam Mohamed, that British intelligence agencies knew that he was abused while in detention in Pakistan in 2002. He had claimed that an MI5 officer who interviewed him in a Pakistani detention centre was aware that he had been abused.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service on Thursday cleared the officer identified only as “Witness B'' of any wrongdoing and said he would not be charged over claims of colluding with Pakistani authorities. It said there was insufficient evidence to charge him.