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United Kingdom govt apologises, awards compensation to Libya's Belhaj

11 May 2018
United Kingdom govt apologises, awards compensation to Libya's Belhaj

Britain has reached a "full and final" settlement with former Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj over his rendition to the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Britain has reached a settlement with Abdul Hakim Belhadj, a Libyan former rebel leader who says he suffered years of torture by Muammar Gaddafi's henchmen after British and US spies handed him over to Libya, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Fatima was pregnant when she and her husband, the head of an opposition group, were seized in Thailand by Central Intelligence Agency operatives on a tip-off from UK's MI6 spies and flown to Libya as part of a secret "deal in the desert" between Libya's leader Gaddafi and then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

So desperate was the British government to prevent further details of Belhaj's rendition from being disclosed that they said that British courts could not hear the case because it involved agents of foreign powers, a reference to the CIA's role in the operation.

Boudchar, who was at parliament with her son to hear the apology, thanked the government for saying sorry. Belhaj has said he will settle for £1, but insists he and his wife also receive an apology. "On behalf of Her Majesty's government, I apologise to you unreservedly", Theresa May, Britain's prime minister, said in a letter to Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, which was read out in parliament on Thursday by Jeremy Wright, the attorney general.

British officials, including Jack Straw, then the foreign secretary and responsible for MI6, repeatedly denied that they had anything to do with the rendering of "terror" suspects, a practice more widely undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Wright said the settlement with the couple included a £500,000 payment to Boudchar. Welcoming the apology, he said: 'It is a historic day, not just for me and my wife. Belhaj spent six years in custody and says he was tortured repeatedly.

The Prime Minister wrote: "The UK Government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering". The UK Government shared information about you with its worldwide partners. Allen congratulated Moussa on Belhaj's "safe arrival" in Tripoli, adding that British involvement in the operation was "the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years". Both will also receive a personal letter of apology from Theresa May. "We accept this was a failing on our part", Wright further added.

"By today's settlement, I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honour, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five attractive children".

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Boudchar said she was chained to a wall and tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency when she was pregnant while being detained at a secret site in Thailand.

The co-operation with Gaddafi - toppled in 2011 - was linked to the "deal in the desert" that saw then-PM Tony Blair attempt to rebuild ties with the pariah leader.

"It is also important that we should act in line with our values and in accordance with the rule of law", Wright said in his statement.