HK link in suspect's rendition to Libya
Greg Torode, Lana Lam and John Carney
Hong Kong is at the centre of a rendition scandal that saw British and US spies conspire to hand-deliver a suspected Libyan terrorist from China to the torture chambers of Muammar Gaddafi via Chek Lap Kok airport.
CIA documents found last week in the abandoned Tripoli office of Gaddafi's intelligence chief reveal Hong Kong demanded assurances that Sami al-Saadi and his family would be humanely treated before agreeing to his departure in March 2004. He left on an Egyptian plane chartered specially to avoid Security Bureau concerns over a Libyan plane landing here - just three days after British prime minister Tony Blair met Gaddafi for the first time.
It is the first time Hong Kong has been linked to rendition flights - the secret and controversial CIA-led missions that saw al-Qaeda suspects sent to foreign prisons where torture was common. It was also the first flight Britain's MI6 intelligence service ran, sparking threats from Saadi to sue the British government and give evidence to a judicial inquiry that is investigating the Hong Kong link.
Saadi told The Guardian in Britain yesterday how he was tortured during six years of detention after arriving in Tripoli with his wife and four children, the youngest aged six.
'They handcuffed me and my wife on the plane, my kids and wife were crying all the way,' he told the paper. 'It was a very bad situation. My wife and children were held for two months, and psychologically punished. The Libyans told me that the British were very happy.'
Saadi said he was beaten and given electric shocks - at one point with his family in a nearby cell. Early in his detention he was visited by Moussa Koussa, the defector who was then intelligence chief. He hailed Libya's ties with the West, saying he could call M16 and the CIA for 'all the information we want on you. You've nowhere to hide'.
Saadi was a key member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - a mujahideen network that opposed Gaddafi and has links to al-Qaeda. The papers included a resume noting he trained in al-Qaeda's camps in Pakistan in the 1990s and was one of Osama bin Laden's 'intimates'.
Living in exile in China after leaving London, Saadi said he was tricked into visiting Hong Kong while discussing with British intelligence about a possible return to Britain. After being told he first had to be interviewed at the British consulate in Hong Kong and given assurances British officials would meet him at the border, Hong Kong authorities detained him on passport violations.
A fax marked 'secret' and described by The Guardian as from the CIA warns Libyan officials of concerns over the treatment of Saadi, also known as Abu Munthir. It states that 'Hong Kong officials have insisted ... they must receive clear assurances ... that Abu Munthir and his family will be treated humanely and in accordance with human rights'.
A Security Bureau spokesman said he could not comment on individual cases. One senior government official said they were aware of the case and were preparing a response. It was handled differently to normal deportations, which usually involve the Justice Department.
The Foreign Ministry in Beijing has yet to respond to faxed questions. A British consulate spokesman said it did not comment on intelligence matters, while the Foreign Office in London had yet to comment.