A new report published by the United Kingdom-based new organization The Guardian highlights the rendition and torture of a Libyan militant, who led the fight against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and his pregnant wife. Making use of documents uncovered in Tripoli after Gaddafi was defeated by coalition and rebel forces last year, the report pays particular attention to revelations on UK involvement in an act that was previously believed to have been authorized solely by the United States. The documents fill in gaps in a story that further reveals how much of a partner the UK government has been in the US government’s “war on terrorism.” The details also make UK government plans to keep proceedings for rendition/torture victims secret even more troubling.

The following is Part 1 in a two-part story on the victims’ quest for justice and how the US is currently interfering.

As The Guardian story profoundly and disturbingly begins:

Just when Fatima Bouchar thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Americans forced her to lie on a stretcher and began wrapping tape around her feet. They moved upwards, she says, along her legs, winding the tape around and around, binding her to the stretcher. They taped her stomach, her arms and then her chest. She was bound tight, unable to move.

Bouchar says there were three Americans: two tall, thin men and an equally tall woman. Mostly they were silent. She never saw their faces: they dressed in black and always wore black balaclavas. Bouchar was terrified. They didn’t stop at her chest – she says they also wound the tape around her head, covering her eyes. Then they put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, to hear or to see. “My left eye was closed when the tape was applied,” she says, speaking about her ordeal for the first time. “But my right eye was open, and it stayed open throughout the journey. It was agony.” The journey would last around 17 hours…

In 2004, Bouchar, who was 30-years-old at the time, was detained in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, Abdel Hakim Belhaj. They were trying to get to the UK and were stopped. Belhaj had a fake Iraqi passport. The Guardian reports an acquaintance in the UK went before a “high commission to explain the couple was trying to reach London.” They were told shortly after that they could board a British Airways flight. But, that flight did not go to the UK: it went to Bangkok, where the two were taken to a the US-run “secret” CIA prison.

In Thailand, Belhaj was “blindfolded, hooded, forced to wear ear defenders, and hung from hooks in his cell wall for what seemed to be hours.” The ear defenders were taken off for interrogations or so loud music could be blasted him. And he was “severely beaten.”

His pregnant wife was separated from Belhaj. She wasn’t sure she would see him again:

… They took me into a cell, and they chained my left wrist to the wall and both my ankles to the floor. I could sit down but I couldn’t move. There was a camera in the room, and every time I tried to move they rushed in. But there was no real communication. I wasn’t questioned.” Bouchar found it difficult to comprehend how she could be treated in this way: she was four-and-a-half months pregnant. “They knew I was pregnant,” she says. “It was obvious.” She says she was given water while chained up, but no food whatsoever. She was chained to the wall for five days. At the end of this period she was taped to the stretcher and put aboard the aircraft, unaware of where she was going or whether her husband was on board. At one point the aircraft landed, remained on the ground for a short period and then took off again. Only when it landed a second time did she hear a man grunting with pain, and realise her husband was nearby…

The aircraft eventually landed in Tripoli. During the rendition flight, Bouchar’s husband was shackled in such a way that he was unable to “sit or lie down.” He would grunt and the agents on the rendition flight would kick him. He’d sometimes get a pillow for his elbows but the pillow was always temporary. Agents would remove the pillow after a short while and he would be in pain again.

The rendition of Belhaj and Bouchar was part of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s effort to make “common cause” with Gaddafi in the “fight against al-Qaida extremism and terrorism.” While Bouchar was imprisoned in Tripoli for four months and then released just before giving birth to a son, Belhaj was held for six years. He was tortured by “Libyan captors” because UK intelligence officers wanted to know about Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) activists or members living in the UK. They wanted details on the LIFG members’ links to Al Qaeda, even though there was no such connection.

MI6, the UK-based secret intelligence service, and the CIA worked with former foreign minister to Gaddafi, Moussa Koussa. Koussa’s office, according toThe Guardian, was informed “as early as November 2003″ that Belhaj—and another dissident named Sami al Saadi, who was rendered and tortured like Belhaj—were seeking the assistance of Chinese intelligence officers in their attempt to deal with “the Islamic extremist target in China”. When MI6 learned that Belhaj was being held in Malaysia under his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, along with his pregnant wife, they were quick to tip off Tripoli.”

A Boeing 737 aircraft “with the tail number N313P” that is known “to have been used in a great many rendition operations,” like the rendition of Binyam Mohamed. A CIA flight plan shows:

…[A]fter leaving Libya, the rendition aircraft planned to stay overnight on the Seychelles before continuing to Bangkok.It was then due to leave Bangkok on the evening of 8 March, the date that Bouchar and Belhaj were forced on board an aircraft. The CIA flight plan shows that the aircraft was then due to fly to Tripoli via Diego Garcia, where it would refuel during the early hours of 9 March…

The rendition and torture of individuals tied to LIFG is troubling on its own but equally bothersome is the UK’s abrupt decision to stop allowing the group to “settle in Britain.” They had formed in the 1990s with the sole intention to push for the removal of Gaddafi from power. The UK let the members live in the country and raise funds. It was even suspected that MI6 encouraged the LIFG to attempt to assassinate Gaddafi. But, it seems, in order to make oil and gas development deals with Libya, the UK did a complete 180 and began to go after the group.

This is, of course, how powers deftly use networks of dissidents to advance foreign policy interests. They are allies or useful pawns when they both want something, like the end of the Soviet Union. Then, when it comes time to build a country in the aftermath, the network presents a threat to the balance of power that must be preserved so the members become targets in a new war or they become pawns in the advancement or rebuilding of country-to-country relations.

Undoubtedly, the US, UK and other members of the coalition that helped to overthrow Gaddafi had contact with LIFG members. They were what fueled allegations that an “Islamic emirate” had been setup in Libya during the uprising. They were a key player in the battle to topple the strongman.Yet, the LIFG remains on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

For Part 2 of this story, which focuses on the victims’ effort to get their case heard in open court, go here.