British spies shipped Libyan opposition activists' entire families to Muammar Gadaffi's henchmen, a High Court is to hear - but it may be held in secret.
Lawyers Leigh Day & Co said today they had lodged evidence with the High Court suggesting that ex-foreign secretary Jack Straw's office had signed off the rendition of children as young as six.
The case is brought by Libyan former exiles Sami al-Saadi and Abdul-Hakim Belhadj, who were snatched with their families from south-east Asia in March 2004.
On their return to Libya the men were separated from their families and imprisoned, suffering severe torture and repeated questioning - allegedly by MI6 agents.
Jack Straw told the Commons foreign affairs committee in 2005 there was "no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition - full stop."
Yet the men's lawyers said communiques found in Libyan government offices during last year's civil war told a very different story.
A fax from MI6 counter-terror chief Mark Allen to Gadaffi's spy chief Moussa Koussa said that "the intelligence on [Mr Belhadj] was British," adding his rendition was "the least we could do."
Mr Belhadj spent six years behind bars, suffering savage beatings and receiving a death sentence before his release in 2010. His pregnant wife Fatima Bouchar was jailed for four months.
But the Tories' Justice and Security Bill, currently before Parliament, would bar the plaintiffs and their lawyers from attending the hearings on national security grounds.
Mr Belhadj, who became a military commander during the civil war, said Britain's alliance with the rebels did not cancel out its past injustices.
"We in Libya are struggling to build a system where the rule of law applies to everyone. I hope the way Britain handles our case will set an example for all the Libyans who are watching," he said.
Charity Reprieve legal director Cori Crider said the public had every right to know just how high it went up the chain of command.
She said: "Did it stop at Allen and Straw? Or did Tony Blair know what was going on in a torture chamber down the road while he hugged Gadaffi in a tent?"
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