False intelligence extracted by torture in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison has been linked to arrests of Libyan dissidents in the United Kingdom, an investigation by Al Jazeera’s People and Power has revealed.
In this exclusive report, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the anti-Gaddafi resistance group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explains that he and fellow leader Sami al-Saadi were subjected to torture by his Libyan interrogators, which forced them to give up the names of innocent residents in the UK.
Al-Saadi and Belhaj also claim foreign agents, including British agents, questioned them in Abu Salim prison. These allegations form the basis of a lawsuit against the British government.
According to Belhaj’s lawyers, the men and their families were pawns in a deal struck by Britain in 2004.
After Gaddafi’s fall, the role played by British intelligence agencies was discovered.
“When the rebels came to Tripoli they ransacked all sorts of buildings … associated with Gaddafi’s old regime,” said Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus, who was involved in the investigation.
“It was in the office of spy chief Moussa Koussa that they found a stash of documents that revealed, in startling detail, the collaboration between British and Libyan intelligence services.”
Belhaj says he was pressured by Gaddafi’s interrogators to give up information about Libyans living in Britain.
“Sometimes they would come to me with the questions and answers already done and force me to sign it. They would mention names to me and say that these people supported armed activities,” he said.
One of the innocent men named under torture was Ziad Hashem, a Libyan who obtained asylum in the UK after Belhaj’s rendition. Hashem claims he was arrested in Britain without any charges: “We were just put in prison arbitrarily without any explanation.”
Hashem is part of yet another law suit against the British government. One of the things he is hoping to reveal is the flow of information between Libyan and British intelligence agencies which led to his detention.
The British government says it is committed to investigating allegations of mistreatment, that it stands firmly against torture and that it never asks any other country to carry it out.
But the dissidents accuse the British government of being complicit in their rendition into Gaddafi’s prisons, showing Al Jazeera documents from MI6 tipping off Gaddafi’s intelligence apparatus about their flight movements.