Key evidence in Libyan's case erased in HK

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


Key evidence revealing Hong Kong's role in the rendition of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi to Muammar Gaddafi's torture chambers has been destroyed by city aviation officials, hampering the investigation of British lawyers.

Saadi, an outspoken opponent of the late Libyan dictator, had come to Hong Kong with his family in 2004 after the British government promised them a safe flight back to Britain, where he lived in exile during the 1990s prior to moving to China.

But when Saadi arrived at Chek Lap Kok airport, he was detained along with his wife and four children, aged six to 12, for almost a fortnight before being forced onto a private Egyptian-registered jet and flown to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The family was imprisoned and Saadi claims he was subjected to years of torture.

His legal team from UK law firm Leigh Day and legal charity Reprieve are suing Britain's spy agencies, Home Office and Foreign Office for their role in his rendition.

Lawyers following the paper trail had requested from Hong Kong the details of Saadi's flight on March 28, 2004.

Cori Crider, legal director for Reprieve, said a letter was sent to Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department last month, but they had yet to receive a response even after the 10-day mandatory deadline for replying to data requests had passed.

But a spokeswoman from the aviation body said a response had been sent to Reprieve, stating that all flight details are destroyed after 90 days, at which point 'the paper flight strips would have been shredded and the magnetic record media erased and reused'.

She said the response also directed the lawyers to approach the Airport Authority instead.

Crider insisted there was no reply, adding she was disappointed by the apparent lack of co-operation.

'It's a very different response than, for example, the national aviation authorities across Europe, who have tended to give over information about rendition flights dating years in the past and have indeed retained that information,' Crider said.

'If the Airport Authority is the government agency which holds the information, it would have been welcome for [the aviation department] to notify the appropriate agencies and inform them that they are in possession of vital evidence.'

Crider said the flight details were a critical part of the case as Hong Kong was the 'proverbial scene of the crime'. 'Reconstructing the logistical part of the operation will help us uncover who was behind the grim fate of the Saadi family, who tried to help cover it up, and why,' she said.

'Follow the trail of the plane, and you learn a vast amount about the whole operation. It's a shame that we haven't received this information out of Hong Kong.'