New Libya case reveals UK-Qadhafi intelligence ties

Published January 24, 2015
Tony Blair (L) smiles as he shakes hands with Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya. — AFP/file
Tony Blair (L) smiles as he shakes hands with Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya. — AFP/file

LONDON: Britain allowed Libyan intelligence agents to operate on British soil during Muammar Qadhafi's regime, enabling them allegedly to intimidate political opponents seeking asylum, media reports said Friday.

The claim is based on an analysis of files unearthed from Qadhafi's archives after his fall in 2011, which cast fresh light on the cooperation between Britain and Libya, The Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers said.

The files are being used in a new court case lodged by or on behalf of 12 men of Libyan origin, who were variously detained, subject to control orders restricting their movements, or had their assets frozen by Britain in the 2000s.

In proceedings at the High Court lodged against spy agencies MI5 and MI6, the Foreign Office and the interior ministry, the men's lawyers say the files demonstrate they should never have been subjected to such sanctions.

According to court documents seen by AFP, the men were all accused of links to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which sought to overthrow Qadhafi and had historical ties to Al Qaeda.

They claim in the suit that evidence against them was obtained through torture of LIFG members, and say Libya and Britain were sharing information about Libyan dissidents.

The British government sought to have the case thrown out but High Court judge Stephen Irwin dismissed this appeal on Thursday, while leaving the option of another challenge.

The proceedings are only the latest to shine a light on Britain's ties with Qadhafi following former prime minister Tony Blair's “deal in the desert” that helped restore international relations with the Libyan leader.

Last year, a former leader of the LIFG, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, was granted permission by a British court to sue the government over his claim that Britain conspired with the CIA in his rendition to Libya for torture.

Leading Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi also won a £2.2 million (then $3.5 million, 2.7 million euros) payment from Britain in December 2012, after claims he was handed over to Libya in 2004 under a joint British-US-Libyan operation.

Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa, the former head of the country's foreign intelligence service, defected from Kadhafi's regime while in London at the start of the popular uprising in 2011.

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