| How Tony B’Liar helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row!

Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row ~ , and Edward Malnick, TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

Tony Blair promised to help Col Muammar Gaddafi in a billion-pound legal dispute with victims of a Libyan terrorist attack, according to official correspondence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Photo: PETER ACDIARMID/AFP

Documents show that Gaddafi turned to Mr Blair after a US court ordered Libya to pay $1.5billion (£1billion) in damages to relatives of seven Americans killed when a bomb exploded on a Paris-bound passenger jet in west Africa. According to the email, Mr Blair approached President George W Bush after promising the Libyan leader that he would intervene in the case.

Mr Bush subsequently signed the Libyan Claims Resolution Act in August 2008, which invalidated the $1.5billion award made by the court.

UTA Flight 772 from Chad was blown up on Sept 19, 1989, by Libyan intelligence services, killing all 170 passengers. The attack took place nine months after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270 people.

The relatives of UTA Flight 772 had won the billion-pound court case in January 2008 after a seven-year legal battle, causing serious difficulties for the Libyan regime in the US. The ruling meant the proceeds of Libyan business deals, mainly in oil and gas but including other investments, could be seized in the US.

Mr Blair’s involvement in the case is outlined in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph. The document was written by Sir Vincent Fean, the then British ambassador to Libya, and was sent to Mr Blair’s aides on June 8, 2008, two days before Mr Blair met Gaddafi in Libya.

It was one of at least six private trips made by Mr Blair to Libya after he quit as prime minister in June 2007. The first trip to meet Gaddafi was made in February 2008. The previous month a US federal court had made the $1.5billion award to Flight 772 victims.

The email written by Sir Vincent outlines points for Mr Blair to raise in his meeting with Gaddafi. It also shows that a key aide to Mr Blair had met with a senior US diplomat to discuss the Flight 772 case.

Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush (and what Banner [a Blair aide] said to Welch [a US diplomat]) to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.”

The memo went on: “He [Blair] could express satisfaction at the progress made in talks between the US and Libya to reach a Govt to Govt solution to all the legal/compensation issues outstanding from the 1980s. It would be good to get these issues resolved, and move on. The right framework is being created. HMG is not involved in the talks, although some British citizens might be affected by them (Lockerbie, plus some UK Northern Irish litigants going to US courts seeking compensation from Libya for IRA terrorist acts funded/fuelled by Libya).”

The memo reveals that Nick Banner, Mr Blair’s chief of staff in his role as Middle East peace envoy, had spoken to David Welch, the US official who was negotiating with the Libyans over compensation for victims of terrorism.

The American lawyer who had won the court order in January 2008 only to have it made invalid by the act signed by Mr Bush said his clients had “got screwed”.

Stuart Newberger, a senior partner at the international law firm Crowell & Moring, said: “This case was thwarted by President Bush, who directed the State Department to negotiate a package deal that ended all Libyan-related terrorism cases, including my judgment. I had heard rumours about Blair’s involvement but this is the first time that role was confirmed.”

He added: “I never considered this an honourable way to carry out diplomacy. It sent the wrong message to terrorist states – don’t worry about these lawsuits and judgments as the politicians will eventually fix it.”

Under the terms of the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, Libya made a one-off payment to victims of all Libyan state-sponsored terrorism including the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103, UTA Flight 772 and a Berlin discotheque. The payment, totalling $1.5billion, gave Libya immunity from all terrorism-related lawsuits.

The relatives of victims of UTA 772 received about $ 100million, rather than the court award of $1.5billion. Relatives of victims of Pan Am 103 welcomed the agreement which saw them get the final instalment of compensation already agreed. The deal meant all victims of Libyan terrorism received the same award.

The Sunday Telegraph has also obtained a separate letter, sent on June 2 from Gavin Mackay – a Foreign Office official seconded to Mr Blair in his role as Middle East peace envoy at the Office of the Quarter Representative (OQR) – to Libya’s ambassador in London.

The letter, on OQR-headed notepaper details Mr Blair’s gratitude that Libya is providing him with a private jet to fly him from Sierra Leone to Tripoli for a four-hour stopover and then on to the UK.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, expressed concern that the trip appeared to be arranged through Mr Blair’s public role as Middle East envoy.

He said: “Unless Mr Blair can come up with a convincing explanation as to why the Quartet secretariat should have been involved in this visit, it would indeed be a reason for legitimate and serious criticism.”

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: “The only conversation he ever had with regard to this matter was to give a general view that it was in the interests of both Libya and the USA to resolve those issues in a fair manner and move on.”

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| Secret courts: what they don’t want the British people to know!

Secret courts: what they don’t want the British people to know ~ Yvonne Ridley, Our Kingdom.

 

The ‘secret courts bill’ is heading through the Lords, just as former ministers and MI6 officials face the prospect of public court appearances over torture allegations.

Liberties and freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta more than 800 years ago are under threat from the British government’s plans to deliver a bill that undermines the principle of open justice. This piece will look at the context in which the Justice and Security Bill, or ‘secret courts bill’ as it is nicknamed, is being pushed through and the powerful resistance to the legislation.

The bill is passing through the House of Lords while the country still reels from the most recent Hillsborough inquiry, which exposed a wide-scale cover up involving the police, politicians, and members of the emergency services. It took more than two decades for the truth to surface after the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans at the stadium in Sheffield, and during that period ordinary people and their communities were demonised by those placed in a position of trust. The toxic legacy of Hillsborough should be followed by more transparency, not more secrecy. Yet the Justice and Security Bill has the potential to make it far easier for such cover-ups to take place.

Furthermore, the bill is being proposed at a time when former ministers from the Blair government including Jack Straw as well as senior establishment figures in the Secret Intelligence Services and Whitehall face the unprecedented prospect of being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives investigating claims of British collusion in the US rendition and torture programme. Crucial evidence of the UK’s role in at least two US-led renditions is detailed in a number of documents held by the Libyan security services, which came to light subsequent to the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Britain’s role in the rendition of Libyan rebel leader Abdul Hakim Belhadj is pointed to in a letter from Sir Mark Allen, former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa, Head of the Libyan intelligence agency at the time. Dated March 18 2004, Sir Mark writes about how grateful he is to Koussa for helping to smooth the way for Tony Blair’s latest visit to Colonel Gaddafi. He adds: “Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [aka Abdul Hakim Belhadj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

It also emerged another rebel leader Sami Al-Saadi was detained whilst flying from his home in Hong Kong to the UK with his wife and four children – the youngest a girl aged six. The family were forced onboard an aircraft bound to Libya two days after Blair’s famous visit. The 45-year-old former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group commander, who was committed to over-throwing Gaddafi, believes documents discovered after the tyrant’s death show British personnel were instrumental in his detention and rendition.

Both he and Belhadj spent more than six years in custody where they say they were subject to torture. Legal papers were served in April on the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by Belhaj’s lawyers Leigh Day & Co and also lodged at the High Court. The documents clearly accuse Straw, Allen, MI6, MI5, the Foreign Office and Home Office of being liable for the false imprisonment as well as “complicity in torture and/or inhuman and degrading treatment; conspiracy to injure; conspiracy to use unlawful means; misfeasance in public office and/or negligence” suffered by the Belhadj and al Saadi families.


Sami al-Saadi with his daughter. Image credit: Reprieve, all rights reserved.

The prosecution may fail. The accusations may turn out to have no foundation at all. But stand or fall the case must be held in an open court so that justice is seen to be done. Under the current judicial system the proceedings would be open to journalists and members of the public. However, should the Justice and Security Bill be passed through Parliament this year in its present form then it is almost certain that both the press and the public will be denied access to the trial. Human rights lawyer Saghir Hussein said of this prospect: “What this means is that everyone outside of the court proceedings will not know who has been charged or the detail of what they have been charged with. Even the defendants may not be allowed in to the proceedings and may never find out why the charges have been brought, why they have been charged and what is the evidence against them. In other words they lose the right to defence. Nor will those seeking justice be allowed in to the court to see what is happening to their alleged tormentors”. He added, “It has not been lost on anyone that the drive for this new legislation emerged around the same time some very powerful people in very powerful places realised they could be forced to give evidence in an open court…”

The resistance

Last week, the London-based NGO Cageprisoners launched a campaign from the House of Commons, No More Secrets, to kill the proposed legislation. Respect MP George Galloway opened the press conference by talking about the need for transparency following the Hillsborough inquiry, saying: “When I learned that the police had systematically falsified the truth in literally 168 statements including allegedly at a high level, and the fact that this was all covered up for 23 years and would have remained a secret if it were not for the campaigning zeal, fortitude and courage of the families of the 96 football fans, then it struck me this is what secret courts would be like. One would never know the truth but it would be legal this time to cover those truths up.” Following on from Galloway, Natalie Bennett, the new leader of the Green Party, said: “Closed justice, not open to the scrutiny of the media or the public, is no justice at all and these closed courts further undermine an absolutely critical principal of the British legal system that everyone is equal before the law; because what it is doing is putting the government above the law.” Moazzam Begg, a director of Cageprisoners and former Guantanamo detainee, concluded the press conference by arguing that the introduction of secret courts would destroy the reputation of British justice, which has been respected and exported around the world.

It can take years for a campaign to attract enough pressure to force the hand of authority, as witnessed over Hillsborough; but the momentum against Clarke’s Justice and Security Bill has already built up a full head of steam. Opponents are diverse and drawn from all political parties, human rights groups and the legal profession. Some of the most eminent names in human rights circles expressed concern about the legislation in The Guardian earlier this year. Former shadow home secretary David Davis is vehemently against the bill, as is the controversial Labour MP Paul Flynn who has added his full weight to the No More Secrets campaign. One of the most powerful opponents is Lord MacDonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has made clear his view that the bill would invite ministers to seek to hide “awkward or embarrassing” actions under the guise of protecting national security. On the same day as the Cageprisoners campaign launch, the issue was being discussed at the Liberal Democrat conference. Jo Shaw, a former parliamentary candidate, tabled a motion in Brighton to withdraw from part of the bill. She said: “This motion is not saying that all the security services or government officials or police are bad or corrupt. But some may be. Some may make mistakes and wish to cover them up. Part two [of the bill] will allow a few bad apples to rot our judicial system from behind closed doors. In simple words, this is a bad bill.”

The Justice and Security Bill will undermine public faith in the judicial system, a system which, as Moazzam Begg pointed out, is admired and embraced around the world. If this bill becomes a reality we may never find out what is being done in our name, behind closed doors.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners. She produced and narrated the documentary ‘Lies, Spies & Libya’, directed by award-winning film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani. For details of the documentary, to be shown as part of the nationwide No More Secrets tour, see the Cageprisoners website.

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| US under spotlight over emerging evidence of Libya attack disrupting major CIA operation!

Attack in Libya disrupted major CIA operation ~ Bill Van Auken,  World Socialist Web Site.

The September 11 attack that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans disrupted a major CIA operation in the North African country.

According to the New York Times, at least half of the nearly two dozen US personnel evacuated from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following the fatal attack on the US consulate and a secret “annex” were “CIA operatives and contractors.”

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” a US official who had been stationed in Libya told the Times. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The Times report describes the mission of the CIA station in Benghazi as one of “conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city,” including Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia that has been linked by some to the September 11 attack, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

It further states that the CIA “began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi” within months of the February 2011 revolt in Benghazi that seized the city from forces loyal to the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Stevens himself was sent into the city in April of that year as the American envoy to the so-called “rebels” organized in the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC).

What the Times omits from its account of CIA activities in Benghazi, however, is that the agency was not merely conducting covert surveillance on the Islamists based in eastern Libya, but providing them with direct aid and coordinating their operations with those of the NATO air war launched to bring down the Gaddafi regime. In this sense, the September 11 attack that killed Stevens and the three other Americans was very much a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

There is every reason to believe that the robust CIA presence in Benghazi after Gaddafi’s fall also involved more than just surveillance. Libyan Islamists make up the largest single component of the “foreign fighters” who are playing an ever more dominant role in the US-backed sectarian civil war being waged in Syria with the aim of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to some estimates, they comprise anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 of approximately 3,500 fighters who have been infiltrated into Syria from as far away as Chechnya and Pakistan.

The CIA has also set up a center on the border between Turkey and Syria to oversee the funneling of arms, materiel, money and fighters into the Syrian civil war. Given the relationship established between the US agency and the Libyan Islamist militias during the US-NATO war to topple Gaddafi, it seems highly probable that the departure of such elements from eastern Libya and their infiltration into Syria would be coordinated by CIA personnel on both ends.

The government installed by the US-NATO war in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was apparently unaware of the size of the CIA presence in Benghazi, though the agency was supposedly cooperating with Libyan intelligence officials in monitoring the activities of the Islamists.

According to a report published September 21 in the Wall Street Journal, the attempt by Libyan government forces to coordinate a response to the militia assault on the US consulate and the “annex” used by the CIA was hindered by the refusal of American officials to provide the Libyans with GPS coordinates for the “annex,” which came under sustained assault and where two security contractors, former Navy Seals, were killed.

When the US and Libyan rescuers managed to evacuate some 30 Americans from the “annex” and bring them to the Benghazi airport, Libyan officials were stunned by the number of US personnel there and had to bring in a second plane to fly them all out.

“We were surprised by the numbers of Americans who were at the airport,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour told the Journal. “We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” he added.

In the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, the question of security at US facilities has become a politically contested issue, with Republicans charging that the Obama administration had behaved irresponsibly in not having US military personnel protect Stevens and other personnel. They have also accused the administration of misleading the public by describing the assault on the two buildings as an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered protests throughout the Muslim world, rather than a terrorist attack.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, a California Republican, last week declared the lack of military guards in Benghazi as “inconceivable” given an earlier attack on the Benghazi compound and other incidents of armed violence in the city.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the criticism by insisting that local security forces and a private security company that deployed Libyan guards had provided security “of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world.”

By late last week, administration officials had begun referring to the assault as a “terrorist attack.” With the US having deployed warships, drones and a 50-member US Marine rapid reaction force to Libya, this may be preparation for military retaliation.

In Libya itself, thousands of people marched in Benghazi on Friday against the militias. Crowds laid siege to the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati brigade, leading to at least four deaths.

The demonstrations clearly expressed public anger over the sway of the Islamists over Benghazi, with participants talking of the need for “a new revolution.”

Late on Saturday, the authorities in Tripoli responded to the popular frustration. The Libyan army chief, Yusseff Mangoush, and national assembly leader Mohamed Magrief announced that “illegitimate” militias would have 48 hours to disarm and disband, or the army would use force.

What this meant was far from clear, however, as Libyan President Mohamed el-Megaref called upon Libyan protesters to leave the “legitimate” militias alone. The president demanded that the demonstrators stop attacks on militias that are “under state legitimacy, and go home.”

The spokesman for the national assembly went further. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spokesman, Omar Humidan, declared that while the militias “have wrong practices… serve their own agenda and have their own ideology… striking these militias and demanding they disband immediately will have grave consequences.”

He continued: “These are the ones that preserve security. The state has a weak army and no way it can fill any vacuum resulting in eviction of these militias… The street is upset because of the militias and their infighting. We are worried of the fallout in the absence of those militias. The state must be given time.”

The militias in Benghazi are almost all offshoots of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist group that had ties to Al Qaeda and whose leaders were abducted and tortured by the CIA as part of Washington’s “global war on terror.” This is the case with Ansar al-Sharia, which is responsible for providing security at the Al Jala hospital in Benghazi, as well as the Rafallah Sahati brigade, which has also been deployed as a security force in the city, including during the national elections.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s demonstrations, the militias struck back, claiming that the popular repudiation of their policies had been stirred up by supporters of the former Gaddafi regime.

The Rafallah al-Sahati militia announced Monday that it had rounded up 113 people for alleged involvement in the protests. A leader of the group claimed that most of those detained were former members of the Gaddafi-era military or supporters of the deposed president.

Libyan state television reported Monday that on the outskirts of Benghazi the bodies of six Libyan soldiers were found shot, execution style, with their hands cuffed behind them. It was also reported that an army colonel had disappeared and was believed to have been kidnapped.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Some media reports accused militiamen of taking revenge on Gaddafi-era veterans in the military; in contrast, a military spokesman, Ali al-Shakhli, blamed Gaddafi loyalists, saying they were trying to stir up trouble between the public and the militias.”

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