Libya struck a deal with Mauritania to secure the extradition of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s spy chief in return for investment in the impoverished West African state, The Times has learnt.
Abdullah al-Senussi, who was the brother-in-law of the deposed Libyan leader, was the most senior regime figure still wanted by Libyan authorities and is the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity.
Western diplomats said the Libyan Government would also face inquiries from Britain, the US and France over al-Senussi’s knowledge of international crimes linked to the Gaddafi regime.
These include the bombing of Pan Am Flight 174 over Lockerbie, the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and the bombing of a French airliner over Niger in 1989 — for which al-Senussi was convicted in absentia by a French court.
“I can confirm that Abdullah al-Senussi has been extradited from Mauritania and that he arrived in Tripoli earlier this morning,” said Mohammed Alakiri, a senior adviser to Mustafa Abushagur, Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Abushagur secured an agreement in principle for al-Senussi’s extradition from the Government in Nouakchott following a visit to Mauritania in May, and negotiations on the details and timing of his return to Libya have been continuing since.
A senior Libyan Government official confirmed that the extradition formed part of a reciprocal deal with Mauritania.
“We have agreed to increase the level of Libyan investment in Mauritania but I cannot give a specific figure,” the official told The Times. “However, there has been no direct financial payment.”
His comments contradicted rumours on the Twitter social network that the Libyan Government had paid $200 million (£126 million) to secure al-Senussi’s extradition.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said last night: “There are a number of open UK police investigations in relation to the activities of the Gaddafi regime. The police will follow the evidence wherever it leads and we will continue to provide them what support we can. The Libyan authorities are in no doubt of the importance the UK attaches to seeing progress made on these investigations.”
Libya said that it would begin the trial this month of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam despite calls from the ICC that he be tried under international law in The Hague.
Meanwhile the CIA faced fresh allegations that it used waterboarding against terror suspects in the aftermath of 9/11, contradicting claims by the US Government that the widely outlawed practice was restricted to just three al-Qaeda members.
The claims are carried in a report from Human Rights Watch into the treatment of 14 Libyan men arrested by the US and its allies, including Britain, before being passed to the Gaddafi government.
Five of the 14 allege they were rendered to secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan for up to two years and subjected to a variety of interrogation techniques including, in one case, waterboarding and in another a related form of water suffocation.
“The scope of Bush Administration abuse appears far broader than previously acknowledged and underscores the importance of opening up a full-scale inquiry into what happened,” said Laura Pitter, the author of the report.