2000-2009 | Backing dictatorships | Libya | Renditions



A protest against rendition.
Elvert Barnes – CC BY-SA 2.0 – via Flickr.
A protest against rendition.
Elvert Barnes – CC BY-SA 2.0 – via Flickr.

[ 28 March 2004 ]

On 28 March 2004, in an operation masterminded by MI6, Sami al-Saadi, his wife and children were forcibly flown from Hong Kong to Tripoli, where he was tortured while his family remained locked up in a nearby cell.  They had flown to Hong Kong from China, thirteen days earlier, with a view to flying on to the United Kingdom, but were arrested for alleged immigration offences. Saadi,  also known as Abu Munthir,  was a well known opponent of Gaddafi’s murderous dictatorship. As a university student he had been a member of an opposition group which later evolved into the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LFIG).  After he was detained and his family’s property and businesses were requisitioned by the state, he fled to Afghanistan where he was active in opposing the Soviet backed government, before then seeking asylum in the United Kingdom in 1992, being granted indefinite leave to remain in 1994.

Initially he had worked alongside other LFIG members in Britain, but fearing for his life he traveled again to Afghanistan, where he lived in Kabul with other LFIG members and during a brief meeting with Osama bin-Laden he argued against any attack on the United States.  On hearing the news on 9/11 he decided to leave Afghanistan, moving first to Iran and then to China.

On 28 March 2004, he and his family were flown first to Bangkok where Libyan officials bordered the aircraft. The rendition occurred just four days after Tony Blair had met Gaddafi in Tripoli, and appears to have been a ‘thank you gift’ for the agreement they had reached to open up Libya to British big business, with Anglo-Dutch Shell announcing at the same moment that it had been granted offshore gas exploration rights worth up to £550 million.1

Saadi was held for six years during which time he was regularly beaten, kicked and subjected to electric shocks. Musa Kusa, Gadaffi’s chief intelligence officer, informed him on the day of his arrival: ‘You’ve been running from us, but since 9/11 I can pick up the phone and call MI6 or the CIA and they give us all the information we want on you. You’ve nowhere to hide.’  Saadi later told MI6 officers who arrived to interrogate him that he was being tortured, but they did nothing to help him.2

It was only after the Libyan uprising of 2011 that documents implicating the role of MI6 where finally discovered in Musa Kusa’s abandoned Tripoli office.  Among them was a fax that the CIA had sent to Tripoli on 24 March 2004, which stated ‘We are also aware that your (Libyan intelligence) service had been co-operating with the British to effect Abu Munthir’s removal to Tripoli, and that you had an aircraft available for this purpose in the Maldives.’ 3


  1. ‘Blair Holds New Libyan Relations” BBC online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3566545.stm
  2. “How MI6 Deal Sent Family to Gadaffi’s Jail,” The Guardian, 9 September 2011, accessed online at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/sep/09/how-mi6-family-gaddafi-jail
  3. Ibid.

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