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FACTDROP: Foreign secretary Jack Straw faces trial threat over Libya rendition


Foreign secretary Jack Straw faces trial threat over Libya rendition

Legal action: Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Jack Straw

Πηγή: LES
By Craig Woodhouse
April 18 2012

A Libyan military commander will drag Jack Straw to court if the former foreign secretary does not reveal whether he signed papers allowing his alleged rendition, lawyers said today.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj’s legal team said he was determined to get an “admission or acknowledgment” after deciding to sue Mr Straw.

The move follows reports suggesting the Labour MP signed documents that allowed Mr Belhadj, 45, to be taken by CIA agents from Thailand to Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya via UK-controlled Diego Garcia in 2004.

Mr Belhadj claims he was seized en route to Britain while living in exile in China, sent back to Libya and imprisoned and tortured.

The civil action seeks to examine Mr Straw’s role in the rendition and claim damages from him for the trauma. It is believed to be the first time such legal proceedings have been taken against a former foreign secretary.

Sapna Malik, a partner at lawyers Leigh Day & Co, told BBC Radio: “The real issue here is not about the amount of compensation — it’s really to get public acknowledgement and an admission from Jack Straw and those others involved of their role in his rendition.”

However, she added that damages might be sought “in due course”.

Mr Straw, who served as foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, has been given a month to respond or face having to defend himself in court.

The Blackburn MP was sent a letter yesterday asking him to produce a number of documents. They include papers mentioned in a Sunday Times article which alleged that Mr Straw signed off the rendition, as well as his diaries, memoirs and notes from March 2004 onwards.

Sami Al Saadi, a Libyan who claims to have shared the same fate as fellow Gaddafi opponent Mr Belhadj, is also taking legal action against Mr Straw.

Mr Belhadj, a key military figure in the uprising that toppled Gaddafi last year, is already suing the Foreign Office and MI6. The Metropolitan Police are investigating his claims. British ministers have always denied any complicity in rendition or torture. A spokesman for Mr Straw said he had no comment to make about the events.

In an interview with Radio 4 last year, he said the Labour government had been opposed to unlawful rendition, “were not complicit in it, nor did we turn a blind eye to it”. According to the Sunday Times, this prompted MI6 officers to show him evidence he had signed off the operation.

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