Libyans 'need justice on rendition'

Libyans need justice over claims that British spies were involved in rendition and torture before the two countries can forge a positive relationship for the future, the detainee at the centre of a new criminal inquiry has said.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, one of the leaders of anti-Gaddafi forces, said his rendition was "harrowing" and called for the police "to find not just the rank-and-file agents, but those ministers who were truly responsible".

His comments came as Scotland Yard launched a criminal inquiry, saying his allegations were so serious that they must be investigated immediately and could not wait for an official inquiry into British complicity in torture.

Mr Belhadj said: "I believe the new Libya and the United Kingdom must forge a positive relationship looking forward - but to start on a good footing, Libyans need justice for the crimes of the past.

"My rendition was a harrowing experience."

Mr Belhadj, 45, a Libyan rebel commander who was living in exile in Beijing, China, says he was tortured after being detained with his wife in 2004 en route to the UK where they were trying to seek asylum.

Also known as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, Mr Belhadj was held for six years in prisons in Libya, and claims he was interrogated by "foreign" agents, including some from the UK. His wife was also imprisoned in Libya for four months, then released just before she gave birth, they say.

He said: "To this day, I cannot understand why my pregnant wife was put on the same plane and abused as well. I trust the police will get to the bottom of this, and find not just the rank-and-file agents, but those ministers who were truly responsible for her suffering."

The Scotland Yard investigation will also consider similar claims made by Sami al Saadi, another opponent of the Gaddafi regime.

Mr al Saadi, 45, also known as Abu Munthir, said he was stopped along with his wife and four young children when he was flying to the UK from his home in Hong Kong in 2004 and taken to Tripoli. Documents were later discovered showing that British personnel were instrumental in his detention and rendition, he said.