How many other countries, including Australia, have used rendition to deal with “terror” suspects?
MI5 was directly involved in the rendition of a Moroccan national, illegally taken from a Belgian prison to work for Britain’s Security Services in London, an investigation by The Independent has discovered.
The man, now aged 29 and who cannot be named for his own safety, was secretly transferred from a Brussels jail in April 2004 and then further held and interrogated by senior MI5 officers at a secret base near London.
Documents seen by The Independent show that in September 2003 a Belgian court sentenced the man to four years in prison for the use of false documents and association with terror suspects. Yet less than a year later Home Office papers reveal that the Moroccan, who was born in Rabat, was in Britain and had been granted leave to remain in the UK by the British Government.
The Home Office document, dated 4 November 2004, says: “It has been decided that the Secretary of State’s discretion should be exercised in your favour and you have been granted limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom for a reason not covered by the Immigration Rules.”
The case is the first evidence of a UK-based rendition recruitment programme operated by the Security Service after the 11 September attacks on America. Until now, Britain’s involvement in the practice appeared to be limited to providing assistance to American renditions.
In an interview with The Independent, the man’s Belgian lawyer, Christophe Marchand, said that the rendition took place while the suspect was waiting to appear before the central criminal court in Brussels in relation to his appeal.
Mr Marchand, Belgium’s foremost defence attorney and author of the book European Trends on the War on Human Rights, said his client, then 23 years old, had been questioned by MI5 agents in Forest Prison in Brussels where he had been detained without trial and held in solitary confinement for more than two years. During his later interrogation and detention at an MI5 safe house 40 minutes from central London, the man did not have access to a lawyer.
Last night MPs and human rights groups said the case illustrated the extent of Britain’s illegal role in the war on terror. Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, said: “If it were to turn out that this man had been transferred to the UK against his will and against due legal process, we should well be concerned. Stories such as this underline the need for an inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened after 11 September.”
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “We simply cannot be in the business of snatching people from foreign countries without any legal process. Why have we fought for the rule of law for all these decades if it is simply to be ignored when the Security Services decide it is not convenient to let judges into the debate?”