British probe of 'rendition' case includes events in HK

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2012, 12:00am

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A criminal probe by British police will expand to cover events in Hong Kong in which UK and US secret agents conspired to handdeliver a suspected Libyan terrorist from China to the torture chambers of Muammar Gaddafi via Chek Lap Kok airport.

It is the latest chapter in a controversial case involving Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, who is suing the British government over its complicity in his 'rendition' from Hong Kong to Libya in 2004, where he claims he was tortured for several years under Gaddafi's regime.

Saadi's lawyers launched legal action against the British government in November and, two days ago, the Metropolitan Police Service in London confirmed the case was 'so serious that it is in the public interest' to launch a criminal investigation.

'The investigation will look at what took place before the movement,' a Met spokesman told the South China Morning Post yesterday. He would neither confirm nor deny if police had already approached Hong Kong authorities.

Saadi's lawyers, from both the legal charity Reprieve and the British law firm Leigh Day, have previously described Hong Kong as the 'proverbial scene of the crime' and that any investigation would include the events that happened in the city.

Saadi welcomed the progress in his case. 'The whole family is encouraged to hear this news, and we will do whatever we can to help the Metropolitan Police,' he said through his lawyers.

A spokeswoman for the British consulate in Hong Kong said it could not comment on the case.

The Hong Kong police did not respond to questions on whether it would launch a criminal investigation.

The Post again sent a detailed list of questions to the Security Bureau and Stanley Ying Yiu-hong - the former bureau permanent secretary named in secret US documents detailing the rendition that were found in Tripoli last year.

A spokeswoman for Ying, who now serves as permanent secretary for financial services and the treasury and also as a justice of the peace, said he was unable to comment on the Security Bureau's work since he no longer worked there.

A bureau spokeswoman said only that it would not comment on individual cases.

The Post's questions covered the detention and deportation of Saadi in 2004 as well as the impact of Thursday's announcement by the London police, including whether a similar investigation was needed here and whether Hong Kong - and Ying in particular - would assist the British authorities.

The case centres on events in March 2004 when Saadi, also known as Abu Munthir, and his family were living in exile in Guangzhou. Saadi, fearing for his family's safety on the mainland, had sought to return to Britain, where he had lived during the mid-1990s.

He claims that he was told by a British intermediary to travel to Hong Kong, where he would be interviewed by the consulate before a transfer to Britain.

Instead, he was detained by Hong Kong authorities for travelling on a fake French passport and held for almost two weeks before he and his family were bundled onto a Libya-bound plane.