Now Blair could be sued over Libya torture claims by man who alleges MI6 sent him into the hands of Gaddafi's regime
- Abdel Hakim Belhadj is already suing Jack Straw
- Mail learns lawyers are drawing up case against Blair
PUBLISHED: 00:51 GMT, 19 April 2012 | UPDATED: 04:18 GMT, 19 April 2012
Tony Blair could be next to face a legal claim for damages from the Libyan man who alleges MI6 sent him to be tortured by Gaddafi’s regime, after he announced he was suing Jack Straw.
In a move without precedent against an ex-minister, Abdel Hakim Belhadj served legal papers against the former foreign secretary over claims that he authorised the Secret Intelligence Service to hand him over to Gaddafi’s government.
The Mail has learned that Mr Belhadj’s lawyers are now preparing a case against Mr Blair as well.
Lawsuit: Tony Blair is facing a legal claim from Abdel Hakim Belhadj
In another dramatic development, coalition ministers have apparently undermined Mr Straw’s claims of ignorance about the affair, revealing that papers showing he was implicated in the rendition of Mr Belhadj do exist.
Sapna Malik, a partner at Leigh Day & Co, the firm representing Mr Belhadj, said: ‘It would be surprising to us if something of this magnitude was not done with Mr Blair’s knowledge.
‘Our clients would like us to follow this case up the chain of command. He was at the top of the chain of command. Mr Belhadj certainly wants an apology from Mr Blair. Watch this space.’
Mr Belhadj, 45, was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which in 2004 was linked to Al Qaeda – links he fiercely denied.
He was picked up that year following a tip-off by MI6 and flown by the CIA, via the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia, to Libya where he claims he was tortured for six years.
The incident took place just days before Mr Blair signed his notorious ‘Deal in the Desert’ with Colonel Gaddafi.
Sued: Mr Belhadj has already launched legal action against former foreign secretary Jack Straw
Documents found in Tripoli following the fall of the dictator show that MI6 counter-terrorism chief Sir Mark Allen boasted to Gaddafi’s spy chief Musa Kusa that ‘the intelligence was British’ which led to Mr Belhadj’s capture. He added that the tip-off was ‘the least we could do for you and for Libya’.
Last year Mr Straw appeared to deny any knowledge of the operation. But it emerged at the weekend that after he made those claims, he was approached by MI6 officers who showed him a document he had signed authorising the rendition.Senior figures in the Coalition claim some documents implicating Mr Straw do exist. One source said: ‘There are papers that point the finger at Jack Straw.’
But Downing Street officials yesterday said they have ‘no plans’ to hand over the documents.
Lawyers for Mr Belhadj and Sami Al Saadi, who also claims he was returned to Libya and tortured, yesterday served Mr Straw with notice that they will launch formal legal proceedings against him unless he comes clean, apologises and produces key documents.
Soldier: Abdel Hakim Belhadj speaks to Libyans at a rally in Tripoli in September 2011
Mr Belhadj, now a senior official in the Libyan transitional government, is already suing the Foreign Office and Sir Mark Allen.
They all have four weeks to come clean and publish the papers or the civil case will begin.
Miss Malik said: ‘If the former foreign secretary does not now own up to his role in this extraordinary affair, he will need to face the prospect of trying to defend his position in court.’
She added: ‘The real issue here is not about the amount of compensation, it is to get public acknowledgement and an admission from Jack Straw and others involved in his rendition. We have evidence that implicates very senior people.’
But she admitted they could seek damages that would force Mr Straw to sell his house.
Mr Straw and Mr Blair are also expected to be questioned by Scotland Yard detectives, who have launched a criminal inquiry into the behaviour of ministers and intelligence officials.
Mr Blair has previously claimed he has no recollection of the case.
Yesterday Mr Straw refused to comment, saying: ‘I am sorry that I can’t say more about this case, but with a police investigation pending and this intended civil legal action I am sorry that it is not appropriate for me to say any more about it.
‘They are entitled to bring the action and it will be dealt with in due course.’