UK: Terrorism inquiry could examine Libya ties

September 5, 2011 - 7:40 AM
Mideast Libya

Libyan rebels' Tripoli military commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in Tripoli, Libya, in this Wednesday Aug. 31, 2011 file photo. Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former leader of an Islamic militant group that sent fighters to Iraq and Afghanistan, insisted Friday that the new Libya will shun extremism and won't become a breeding ground for terrorism. Belhaj, said he was detained in 2004 in Malaysia and sent to a secret prison in Thailand where he claimed he was tortured by CIA agents. Then he was sent to Libya and jailed for seven years by Moammar Gadhafi's regime. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

LONDON (AP) — A British inquiry into the country's pursuit of terrorism suspects confirmed Monday that it will examine new allegations about close ties between U.K. intelligence officials and Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

Security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli have offered embarrassing examples of the warm relationships that British and American spies developed with their Libyan counterparts.

Files discovered among tens of thousands of papers collected from an External Security building in Tripoli also document how Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, now Libya's rebel military commander, was targeted for rendition.

Belhaj, who was seized in Bangkok in 2004 and delivered to Tripoli, alleges that U.S. and British intelligence planned his capture and were later involved in his interrogation.

An inquiry — known as the Detainee Inquiry — being led by retired appeals court judge Peter Gibson said it would include the allegations in its examination of Britain's conduct in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"The Detainee Inquiry is looking at the extent of the U.K. government's involvement in, or awareness of, improper treatment of detainees — including rendition," the inquiry said in a statement. "We will therefore, of course, be considering these allegations of U.K. involvement in rendition to Libya as part of our work."

British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said the leader also planned to address the allegations in a statement to Parliament on developments in Libya and Syria later Monday.

"We don't yet know what those allegations amount to, but this government has made it very clear that it will address these kind of issues," spokesman Steve Field told reporters.

He said the government hoped Gibson would consider the claim alongside its primary focus — allegations put forward by former Guantanamo Bay detainees who accuse Britain of being complicit in their mistreatment.

"It is certainly open for that inquiry to consider other cases where serious allegations are made," he said.

In one letter uncovered in Tripoli, dated Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi's then-spy chief Moussa Koussa for a gift of a "very large quantity of dates and oranges."

Koussa defected from Gadhafi's regime and flew to Britain in March, where he was questioned for several weeks by intelligence officials.

In a public statement in April, Koussa — who also served as foreign minister — acknowledged he had strong ties with a number of British officials.

"I personally have relations, and good relations, with so many Britons. We worked together against terrorism and we succeeded," said Koussa, who later left Britain for Doha.