KONG - When one conjures up the dark, shadowy
world of interrogation and torture associated with
"extraordinary rendition", the neon glow of this
city of global finance does not immediately spring
Think again: If Sami al-Saadi is
to be believed, Hong Kong has become a transit
point for secret, sordid deals that land suspected
terrorists in some of the world's worst torture
At least that's what the
46-year-old Libyan claims happened to him eight
Now Saadi is suing the Hong
Kong government for damages and full disclosure of
his treatment while he was allegedly held in
custody here before being flown back to Libya,
where he says he
experienced all of the
many horrors of a prison system run by the
recently overthrown regime of the late strongman
Saadi is also suing the
government of the United Kingdom, whose agents he
alleges were instrumental in forcibly returning
him to Libya.
Saadi's claims have already
served to embarrass and shame Hong Kong
authorities - who have pointedly refused to
discuss his case, even after the chairman of the
Legislative Council's security panel, James To
Kun-sun, urged officials to "come clean".
The council acts as the city's
If Saadi wins his
lawsuit, the current official embarrassment and
bureaucratic silence will instantly turn into
disgrace and abject apology, not to mention a
payout that could amount to millions of dollars.
Saadi's horrifying saga begins in 1988,
when he fled Libya to join the overseas resistance
to Gaddafi's iron-fisted rule, which lasted 42
years before the 69-year-old tyrant was captured
and killed by rebels last October.
early 1990s, Saadi had adopted the nom de guerre
Abu Munthir and was receiving military training in
mountain camps in Pakistan with links to Osama bin
Laden, the al-Qaeda leader killed in May 2011
during a US Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land teams)
raid on his secret compound in the Pakistani city
of Abbottabad. As a result of his training, Saadi
would become an important strategist for the
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group seeking to overthrow
Saadi lived in Britain with his
wife and children from 1993 to 2003. Then, feeling
threatened as previously hostile relations between
Tripoli and London began to warm, the family moved
to the city of Guangzhou, capital of southern
China's Guangdong province. From there, Saadi
hoped to make his way to political asylum in
Norway, but his plans were foiled by authorities
in Beijing, who also may have been part of a grand
conspiracy to return him to Libya.
tells the story, in March of 2004 - after Saadi,
his wife and four children flew from Hong Kong to
Beijing en route to Oslo - they were seized at
Beijing Capital International Airport for carrying
false passports and returned to Hong Kong.
It was back in Hong Kong - according to
lawyers at Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners, the firm
representing Saadi in the city - that things
turned from bad to worse for the suspected
terrorist and his family.
team reportedly possesses documents detailing how
Hong Kong security officials colluded with agents
from the US Central Intelligence Agency and
Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) to
detain and interrogate Saadi for nearly two weeks
in the city before secretly placing him and his
family on a plane to Tripoli, where it was certain
he would be jailed and tortured, if not killed.
On the first day of his family's Hong Kong
ordeal, Saadi claims that he - along with his two
sons, then aged 11 and nine - was confined to a
small cell containing one bed while his wife and
two daughters - then aged 12 and six - were held
together in a separate cell.
following day, he says the whole family was moved
to a "security room" with armed guards who
accompanied them even to the toilet and would not
allow them to change clothes or bathe.
During this time, Saadi and his wife were
repeatedly interrogated, although there is no
evidence of torture during their detention in Hong
After a week of interrogation in the
city, Saadi says he and his family were taken to
Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok Airport to board a flight
back to the Chinese mainland; suddenly, however,
there was a change of plan, and they were returned
to the same room and circumstances in which they
had previously been held.
March 28, the family was placed on a chartered
Boeing 777-200 operated by EgyptAir and bound for
Tripoli. They were the only passengers.
The Hong Kong government reportedly
refused to hand Saadi over to a Libyan aircraft
and also insisted on assurances from the Libyan
government that neither he nor any member of his
family would be tortured - assurances that
London-based human-rights organization Reprieve,
which is championing Saadi's cause, insists no
humane government should have accepted at face
As the family boarded that EgyptAir
flight and entered an unlighted cabin, according
to Saadi, armed Libyan guards separated the
children from their parents and the two girls from
the two boys.
Saadi and his wife were
handcuffed and seated at the front of the cabin,
out of view of their children. The children were
told to say "goodbye" to their parents, the
implication being that they would never see them
After the 17-hour flight to a
military airport in Tripoli, the family was
transported to a prison in the Mediterranean city
of Tajura. Saadi's wife and children were held in
the prison for two and a half months while Saadi
spent three years there before being transferred
to Tripoli's notorious, top-security Abu Salim
prison, from which he was freed last August during
the uprising that toppled Gaddafi.
plight first came to light when top-secret
documents related to his case were discovered by
human-rights workers in the abandoned Tripoli
office of Gaddafi's former intelligence chief,
Moussa Koussa, after the overthrow of Gaddafi.
These documents appear to reveal that the
CIA arranged for the EgyptAir flight to Tripoli
once the Hong Kong government refused to allow a
Libyan aircraft to land in the city.
addition, they show that MI6 agents worked with
the CIA to seize another Libyan dissident, Abdul
Hakin Belhaj, in Bangkok, also in March 2004.
Belhaj, too, was then "rendered" from Thailand to
Currently a key player in the new
Libyan government, Belhaj says he was tortured
both by CIA agents and by his jailers in Tripoli.
Interestingly, the alleged Saadi and
Belhaj renditions occurred around the same time
that then British prime minister Tony Blair paid a
friendly visit to Gaddafi in Tripoli during which
Blair stated that he wanted to make a "common
cause" with the dictator to fight terrorism around
Also while Blair was in
Tripoli, it was announced that the Anglo-Dutch oil
conglomerate Shell had signed a US$860-million
gas-exploration deal with the Gaddafi regime.
If Saadi's claims are true, Hong Kong
security officials put him and his family on that
EgyptAir flight to hell two days before Blair's
arrival in the Libyan capital.
is a Hong Kong-based teacher and writer. He can be
reached at email@example.com. Follow him
on Twitter: @KentEwing1
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