A former senior MI6 officer will not face charges over his alleged role in handing over Libyan dissidents and their families to the country’s former dictator Colonel Gaddafi, the Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed.
Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for the UK’s alleged involvement in the rendition of Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife, and fellow dissident Sami al-Saadi and his wife and young children.
The CPS only referred to a “suspect” but it is widely understood to be Sir Mark Allen, MI6’s former head of counter-terrorism, who is believed to have been responsible for a series of faxes to Libya referring to the rendition of Mr Belhaj.
The allegations against MI6 were first made public in 2011 after documents uncovered during the Libyan revolution which eventually toppled Gaddafi’s regime.
But in a statement on Thursday, Sue Hemming, head of the CPS special crime and counter terrorism division, said: “Following a thorough investigation, the CPS has decided that there is insufficient evidence to charge the suspect with any criminal offence.
“We made out decision based upon all the available admissible evidence and after weighing up all of the information we have been provided with.”
The decision will come as a relief toSir Mark Allen, who was questioned by Scotland Yard about faxes from London to Tripoli signed by “Mark”.
The signature is believed to be that of an MI6 officer who was acknowledging his role in the abduction of Mr Belhaj.
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was also questioned about the renditions, which took place in 2004, but as a witness. Both men have always denied any involvement.
A leading member of the Islamist opposition to Gaddafi, Belhaj was abducted by the CIA in March 2004 after arriving in Thailand from London.
The letter signed “Mark” was sent to Tripoli following the arrest, reminding Gaddafi and his regime that the tip-off from MI6 had allowed the American agency to apprehend Behaj and fly him to Tripoli.
Belhaj’s wife claimed that she had been taped to a stretcher for 17-hours while they were being flown back to Libya. While she spent four months in prison, her husband was imprisoned for over six years, during which he was allegedly tortured on multiple occasions.
In between the rendition of Belhaj’s family and al-Saadi, Tony Blair held a meeting in Libya with Gaddafi, before publicly announcing that the two countries shared a “common cause” in their commitment to root-out terrorism.
Both Belhaj and al-Saadi claimed they had been interrogated by British intelligence officers while being held in Libyan custody. They also allege that the information extracted from them while in captivity was used to detain more Libyan dissidents living in the UK.
Those allegations appear to have been accepted in recent UK court decisions, with al-Saadi and his family receiving £2.2 million in damages from the British Government.
Previously, British detectives had investigated abuses that occurred in the US detention facility at Bagram, north Afghanistan, and the mistreatment of al-Qaida suspect Binyam Mohamed, who was awarded damages by the British Government.
In 2013 a judge-led inquiry closed the investigation on the basis that it could not continue at the same time that Scotland Yard pursued its own inquiries.
However, the lead judge, Sir Peter Gibson, published an interim report in which he said there had been evidence that MI6 and the intelligence agencies had worked with the CIA in the rendition operations.
He added that some officers had “supported” the mistreatment of suspects, including the use of assault, sleep deprivation, hooding and the use of stress positions.
His report also contained 27 questions that MI6 had failed to answer, before the inquiry was shelved.
However, it is now believed that Westminster’s own Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has taken up the investigation.