Report: CIA “renditioned” Libyan rebel commander

More information emerges on the notorious Abdel Hakim Belhaj—recently an “al-Qaeda-linked terrorist” and now a military commander of Libya’s NATO-backed rebels. A Sept. 3 account in The Guardian informs us that he was actually “renditioned” by the CIA from Malaysia to Libya back in 2004, when he was going by the alias Abdullah al-Sadiq:

The CIA worked closely with Muammar Gaddafi’s intelligence services in the rendition of terrorist suspects including Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, the rebel commander in Tripoli, according to documents found in Tripoli.

The documents, found in the offices of the former head of Libyan intelligence Musa Kusa, also show that MI6 gave Gaddafi’s regime information on Libyan dissidents living in the UK.

The files, uncovered by Human Rights Watch, provide details of the close relationship between western intelligence services, including MI6 and the CIA, and the ousted dictator’s regime.

Two documents from March 2004 appear to be American correspondence to Libyan officials to arrange the rendition of Belhaj, the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant group with links to al-Qaida.

Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents say he will be flown from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Libya, and asks for Libyan government agents to accompany him. They also request US “access to al-Sadiq for debriefing purposes once he is in your custody”.

Belhaj has said he was tortured by CIA agents at a secret prison before being returned to Libya.

“Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected,” the document states. [Sic!!!]

Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, called the ties between Washington and Gaddafi’s regime “a very dark chapter in American intelligence history, and it remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services”.

There are a few things we don’t get here. For one, we are not told how the documents wound up in the hands of Human Rights Watch. And we were told a few days ago that Qaddafi’s internal intelligence service was in the hands of Abdullah Alsinnousi—whose ransacked offices revealed a trove of juicy if perhaps dubious documents—while Moussa Koussa, Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief, defected to Britain back in March.

Such anomalies aside, it will be fun to watch dogmatists on either side of the Libya question squirm in response to these revelations. On one hand, the situation is clearly much messier than mainstream triumphalism will allow. On the other, what are the shameless Qaddafi-boosters like Hugo Chávez and Cynthia McKinney going to say about this? Probably, nothing. Chávez has already weighed in uncritically for Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad, who has long been revealed as complicit with CIA “renditioning”, most notoriously in the case of Maher Arar.

We hope The Guardian stays on top of this story. Because absolutely everyone has an interest in sending it down the Memory Hole.

See our last post on the struggle in Libya.

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