- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

LONDON After nearly three years in exile in France, a former spy who infuriated Britain's intelligence community with charges of incompetence and illegal plots arrived home yesterday and walked into police custody.

No sooner had David Shayler been charged with disclosing state secrets than the burly, blunt-speaking former agent was vowing to dig further into his revelations particularly claims that Britain was involved in a plot to assassinate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"I feel good to be back in my own country. I feel good to be free again, and as soon as possible I'm going to pursue the Gadhafi plot," Mr. Shayler told journalists after he was released on bail.

Mr. Shayler, who had worked for Britain's MI5 internal security agency since 1994, fled to France after an August 1997 article in London's Mail on Sunday newspaper published his disclosures.

Insisting he revealed the information out of patriotism, he has since accused the British government of trying to silence him with criminal charges and a lawsuit last year. The British government has denied the Gadhafi claims.

Mr. Shayler returned by ferry from the French port of Calais in a high-profile crossing accompanied by reporters, TV crews and his girlfriend Annie Machon. Police confronted him as he stepped off the boat in Dover.

"He feels that he needs to come back and vindicate himself," an emotional Miss Machon told reporters. She said it was "scandalous" that he should be arrested when "all he's done is tell the truth about a very secretive government organization."

Mr. Shayler was charged with two counts of breaking the Official Secrets Act and released after surrendering his passport.

The charges were not connected to the Gadhafi claims, but to disclosures published in the 1997 Mail article. In that article, Mr. Shayler said MI5 kept files on politicians, including Home Secretary Jack Straw and former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath. The article also said MI5 tapped the telephone of Peter Mandelson, now Britain's Northern Ireland secretary.

The charges carry a maximum jail sentence of four years. Mr. Shayler is to appear before a Bow Street Magistrates Court on Friday for a preliminary hearing.

In a separate civil suit filed in December by the British government, Mr. Shayler is accused of breach of copyright and breach of contract for releasing secret documents.

Mr. Shayler told reporters that by not charging him over the Gadhafi claims, the government is "quite clearly backing down from what was a very Draconian and very repressive position."

"I wonder whether this is an attempt to prevent the jury from hearing the whole story," he said.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. aired in 1998, Mr. Shayler claimed that Britain's external intelligence agency, MI6, had been involved in a plan to kill Mr. Gadhafi.

At the time, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook dismissed Mr. Shayler's charges as "pure fantasy." The Foreign Office, which is responsible for MI6, offered no comment on the charges against Mr. Shayler.

Mr. Shayler spent four months in Paris' La Sante prison in 1998 after being arrested on a British warrant. A French appeals court rejected an extradition bid.

Mr. Shayler said yesterday he hopes to use European human rights laws to challenge any charges against him.

"It's an absolute nonsense that in this day and age in Britain we have a law which makes it a crime to report a crime," he said.

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