In an extraordinarily important story, Robert Verkaik, Barbara Jones and David Rose at the Mail have just set out in detail how the British Secret Services betrayed Libyan dissidents to whom Britain had given asylum. They were victims who opposed the vicious Gaddafi regime. We gave them sanctuary. Then, under New Labour, we helped the dictator to root them out here in the UK. This was more than illegal. The fundamentals of our law and liberty were undermined under Blair's premiership, while he returned to enjoy Gaddafi's hospitality (looking forward to their later friendship).
There are only two possible interpretations as to what happened: either the secret services took it upon themselves to collaborate with Libya in turning on UK-based dissidents - or they had political instructions. Now, after the fiasco of supporting lies about Iraq, would the agencies take part in Gaddafi's war on his own people without clear political direction?
Obviously not. Blair was directly involved in re-establishing relations with Gaddafi, and then spinning this as a triumph of winning a new ally in the 'war on terror' (see Andrew Marr's slavish reporting quoted below). Prime Ministers need to be in control of issues like this.
After he left No 10, Blair wrote to ‘Dear Muammar’ to tell him he knew of ‘good, worthwhile projects for investment’, and dear Muammar lent dear Tony his private jet at least twice (another great Mail story). So clearly Gaddafi thought Blair responsible for the various acts of British kindness in stamping on his opposition.
How can anyone not conclude that Blair ordered the collaboration? Now, by making it a matter of his 'recollection', he is playing his old trick of making his subjectivity the story. It happened on his watch. He should be prosecuted.
This website has just published a must-read analysis by Tim Otty QC setting out the appalling record of the British government since 9/11. He is rightly concerned to denounce and prevent the secret courts proposed in Kenneth Clarke's Green Paper.
The fundamental premise of the Green paper is that the British state along with its agents can be trusted as being honest and law-abiding - especially its privileged secret services. The collaboration with Gaddafi because of his oil money proves that this is not so. I am not saying the secret services are always lying and criminal - they contain men and women of integrity, I am quite sure. But what is absolutely clear is that their masters can be suborned and their principles undermined by the promise of great commercial riches, or American pressure, or both. Therefore they must be answerable for their deeds in open court - indeed this may be the only security we have to prevent arbitrary rule, given the weakness of parliament.
By the way, I highlighted the first evidence of this story in March of last year, setting out the likelihood of what was going on, in an OurKingdom/openDemocracy piece on the Libyan connection to the LSE. Was the issue taken up by Labour backbenchers or those stalwart defenders of liberty, the Liberal Democrats? Why bother asking the question... At least David Davis MP speaks out now, as he has done so often on these issues, telling the Mail, "This is an appalling betrayal of Britain’s obligations and traditions, apparently for reasons of realpolitik, not national security. What the documents reveal is coercion at best, and at worst blackmail."
Here is what we published a year ago:
Gaddafi seems to have calculated that if Libya declared itself to be with America and against “the terrorists” America would no longer regard it as hostile. By the same logic, once he was ‘with’ Bush he’d be an ally of America in the war on terror and therefore his own opponents could be defined as ‘terrorists’, and he could demand the western powers assist him to pursue them.
In 2003 he agreed to end his WMD programme and pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing. In March 2004 Blair met Gaddafi and a £550 million gas exploration deal was announced with Shell. According to the BBC↑ , Mr Blair said he had been struck by how Colonel Gaddafi wanted to make "common cause with us against al-Qaeda, extremists and terrorism", and the BBCs then political editor Andrew Marr said: "This is an absolutely pivotal moment in the history of the region, possibly even in the history of the war against terrorism."
A shocking aspect of this, it seems, was the treatment of Libyan dissidents that followed, according to Gareth Peirce who represents many defendants in the UK’s miscarriages of justice. She writes that↑ immediately after the 7/7 London bombings of 2005, Blair “initiated an agreement with Colonel Gaddafi on the deportation of Libyan dissidents who had sought asylum and whose presence, he [Blair] claimed, constituted one of the gravest threats to the security of this country”.
Thanks to the European Convention, the UK was prevented from expelling them to Libya as Gaddafi would have had them executed. But Britain’s draconian control order regime was brought into play and they were placed under house arrest without knowing the charges against them. The “key evidence” that was kept secret from them, Peirce thinks, would have “undoubtedly emanated from Libya itself”. In this way their capacity to organise opposition to Gaddafi was eliminated, here in the UK.
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