Tony Blair wrote to Colonel Muammar Gaddafito thank him for the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries’ counter-terrorism agencies following a period during which the UK and Libya worked together to arrange for Libyan dissidents to be kidnapped and flown to Tripoli, along with their families.
The letter, written in 2007, followed a period in which the dictator’s intelligence officers were permitted to operate in the UK, approaching and intimidating Libyan refugees in an attempt to persuade them to work as informants for both countries’ agencies.
Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar” and signed “Best wishes yours ever, Tony”, the letter was among hundreds of pages of documents recovered from Libyan government offices following the 2011 revolution and pieced together by a team of London lawyers.
The lawyers are bringing damages claims on behalf of a dozen Gaddafi opponents who were targeted by the two countries’ agencies during the covert cooperation. The claimants were variously detained and allegedly mistreated in Saudi Arabia, rendered from Mali to Libya, or detained and subjected to control orders in the UK.
Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing claims against the British government on the basis of the recovered documents, alleging false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.
The letter has emerged at a time when the last Labour government’s foreign policy record is coming under intense scrutiny. This week Blair rejected suggestions he was to blame for the delayed publication of the report of the Chilcot inquiry into the UK’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Blair is among those expected to be criticised in the report.
Libya, meanwhile, has descended into further violence and economic chaos since the revolution, with rival militias shelling residential areas, destroying airports and burning down oil refineries in their struggle for wealth and influence.
The recovered documents show that MI5 and MI6 submitted more than 1,600 questions to be put to two opposition leaders after they had been kidnapped with British assistance and flown to one of Gaddafi’s prisons. Both men say they suffered appalling torture.