Negotiations with Libyan put on CIA torture flight in Hong Kong 'stalled'

Lawyer for Libyan put on CIA flight from Chek Lap Kok and tortured says family is making no progress in bid for redress from Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 July, 2014, 5:21am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 July, 2014, 9:54am

Negotiations between the government and the victims - including four young children - of a secret CIA rendition flight from Chek Lap Kok have come to a standstill, more than two years after lawyers first alerted justice officials to the case.

It is the first known case of Hong Kong being directly involved in the CIA's controversial rendition programme that saw suspects kidnapped and tortured in secret jails.

In June 2012, the legal team for Sami al-Saadi - a Libyan dissident who the CIA regarded as a suspected terrorist - and his family wrote to the Department of Justice to detail their claim for damages.

While justice officials had started discussions with Saadi's lawyers, there was "a steadfast refusal to engage with the allegations", said Cori Crider, strategic director of British-based legal charity Reprieve, which is representing Saadi and his family.

"The family haven't given up on the idea that there will be some recognition of what they have suffered from the Hong Kong government, but it certainly has been a long time coming. They are starting to feel that justice delayed is justice denied."

At the heart of the case is Hong Kong's alleged collaboration with American, British and Libyan spies to secretly and illegally detain Saadi, his wife and four children - the youngest was six at the time - for almost two weeks in March 2004 before forcing them onto a flight back to Tripoli.

Saadi, who had been living in exile for most of his life as he was a vocal opponent of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was jailed and tortured for years.

The case only came to light after a secret dossier detailing the rendition in Hong Kong was uncovered at the offices of Gaddafi's spy chief when rebels toppled the dictator's regime in 2011.

Stanley Ying Yiu-hong, who was the permanent secretary for security at the time, was listed in the documents as a key contact to ensure the rendition was carried out quickly.

The papers also named Madonna Fung from the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre - a private jet hub at the airport - as an intermediary.

A spokesman for the Security Bureau yesterday said there had been "ongoing communications" with Saadi's lawyers.

"At this stage, it would not be appropriate for the government to make any comments," he said.

In December 2012, the British government paid Saadi more than £2 million (HK$26.5 million) in compensation, without admitting any liability.

Last week, Britain's Foreign Office said flight records from 2002 to 2009 to Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean where the CIA allegedly set up a secret jail, were incomplete because of water damage.

The damage specifically related to records for 2002 - the year London has admitted rendition flights landed in Diego Garcia.

"The government might as well have said the dog ate their homework," Crider told The Guardian.

"This smacks of a cover-up. They now need to come clean about how, when, and where this evidence was lost."