Police investigate whether security services snooped on renditions investigation

British police have confirmed that they are looking into whether UK security services have eavesdropped on their investigation into MI6 complicity in rendition and torture.

London’s Metropolitan Police have been investigating the UK’s role in the kidnap and forcible transfer of two Gaddafi opponents and their families to Libyan prisons in 2004, which came to light after correspondence between MI6’s Sir Mark Allen and Gaddafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa was found in 2011.

That correspondence indicated that Britain had played a central role in the 2004 renditions of Abdel-hakim Belhaj and his then-pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, and Sami al Saadi along with his wife and four children, the oldest of whom was 12 at the time. The Met announced in early 2012 that they were opening an investigation into the case, codenamed ‘Operation Lydd.’

However, recent revelations that UK intelligence services spy on lawyer-client communications, revealed in a case brought on behalf of the families by legal charity Reprieve, have raised similar questions over whether the police investigation may also have been compromised. Reprieve wrote to the Met to raise these concerns earlier this month; the Met subsequently confirmed to the Mail on Sunday that it was investigating the issue.

Commenting, Cori Crider, US lawyer for the Belhaj and al Saadi families and a director at Reprieve said: “It seems blatantly obvious that those under investigation by the police for serious crimes should not have access to the details of that investigation. Yet that is just what we fear may have happened here. Not content with being able to skew trials in their favour by spying on lawyers, the Government may now have gone as far as snooping on evidence that has gone to the detectives investigating the government in Operation Lydd.”

“Given that British officials are likely to be the key witnesses and suspects in the 2004 kidnap of a pregnant woman and several young children, how can we be sure information we gave the police hasn’t made its way into the wrong hands? And what of the safety of key confidential witnesses we have contacted – people who told me they feared for their lives if it was known Reprieve spoke to them? The government needs urgently to explain whether the police investigation has been in any way compromised by their eavesdropping policies. Ministers and officials must stop behaving as though they are above the law.”