'Tell the truth': Libyan dissident’s daughter abducted from Hong Kong aged 12 urges CIA to come clean

Daughter of Libyan dissident abducted with family from Hong Kong to Tripoli calls on CIA to ‘tell the truth’ about rendition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 6:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 5:21pm

The daughter of a Libyan dissident who was abducted along with her whole family in Hong Kong in 2004 and flown to Tripoli with the help of US and British intelligence has called on the CIA to "tell the truth" about the agency's involvement. 

Khadija al-Saadi, who was 12 years old when she was abducted along with her parents and siblings, recounted in an essay for Gawker on Wednesday how she saw her father be chained to an aeroplane seat and have a needle stuck into his arm as the family was flown to Gaddafi's Libya. 

"I know about the chains and the needle because Sami al-Saadi – a long time political opponent of Colonel Gaddafi – is my father and I saw him in that state," Saadi wrote. 

"We were taken off the plane and bundled into cars. Hoods were pulled over my parents' heads. Libyans forced my mother, sister and I into one car, my brothers and father another. The convoy drove to a secret prison outside Tripoli, where I was certain we were all going to be executed." 

Though Saadi and her mother and siblings were released after a short time, her father spent six years in prison, during which time he says he was beaten, given electric shocks and repeatedly threatened with execution. 

The Saadi family had been on the run from agents of the Libyan dictator for years when they were forced to board a plane in Hong Kong, allegedly by agents working for British intelligence. In December 2012, the UK government agreed to pay a settlement of £2.23 million (HK$29.1 million) as compensation to the Saadi family, though it did not admit liability. 

Evidence of the role of foreign intelligence agencies in the Saadis' abduction came to light in 2011 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. 

Human Rights Watch published CIA correspondence with Libyan intelligence found in the office of spy chief Moussa Koussa after rebel fighters took control of Tripoli. 

"We are ... aware that your service had been cooperating with the British to effect [Saadi's] removal to Tripoli ... the Hong Kong government may be able to coordinate with you to render [Saadi] and his family into your custody," the letter read. 

Khadija al-Saadi's comments come after the US Senate intelligence committee rejected redactions made by the Obama administration to a key congressional investigation into the CIA's use of torture. 

Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, head of the intelligence committee, said on Tuesday that she would delay publication of the report in an attempt to reverse redactions that "eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report's findings and conclusions."

"Until these redactions are addressed to the committee's satisfaction, the report will not be made public," Feinstein said. 

Saadi called on the Obama administration to unredact the report and give a "full admission of what has taken place in the past." 

"I want to know which places were used for the rendition programme; I want to know how my family were kidnapped and moved around like cargo; I want to know who gave the orders at each level," she wrote. "Publishing a full, unredacted version of the Senate report is the only way for us to move forward together and ensure that those years do not happen again." 

Though Saadi does not mention the Hong Kong government in her article, lawyers representing the family vowed in 2012 to sue the SAR administration for its role in the rendition. 

"The case raises very serious allegations against the most senior government officials in Hong Kong and our team is fully focused on litigation," Ghada Eldemellawy, an investigator with the British-based human rights legal charity Reprieve, said at the time. 

The Hong Kong government has refused to comment on 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 Hong Kong’s Department of Justice to detail their claim for damages.

Last month, Cori Crider -the strategic director of British-based legal charity Reprieve which is representing Saadi and his family – told the SCMP that while justice officials have started discussions with them, there was "a steadfast refusal to engage with the allegations”.

"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,” Crider said.

“They are starting to feel that justice delayed is justice denied."