x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Libyan offers to settle rendition suit against UK for £3 and an apology

Abdel Hakim Belhaj claims that both British and US intelligence may have played a role in his 2004 detention in Thailand and his transfer to Tripoli, where he spent years in prison.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, centre, is seen as a rebel military commander during the Libyan uprising in 2011. Mr Belhaj and his wife are suing the British government, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the MI6 spy agency, Mark Allen. Francois Mori / AP Photo
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, centre, is seen as a rebel military commander during the Libyan uprising in 2011. Mr Belhaj and his wife are suing the British government, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the MI6 spy agency, Mark Allen. Francois Mori / AP Photo

LONDON // A Libyan military commander who is suing the British government over its alleged role in his detention and rendition has offered to settle for £3 and an apology, saying he is seeking justice, not personal enrichment.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife are suing the British government, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the MI6 spy agency, Mark Allen.

Mr Belhaj, a former fighter in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that had opposed the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi, claims that both British and US intelligence may have played a role in his 2004 detention in Thailand and his transfer to Tripoli, where he spent years in prison.

He said today he has sent an open letter to the British government offering to drop the case in return for a token £1 (Dh5.53) compensation from each defendant along with an apology and an admission of liability.

"It is certainly true that my wife and I suffered deeply during our kidnap and in Libya," Mr Belhaj said in a statement issued by his supporters, the Reprieve charity. "But we have come to court in Britain because we believe your courts can deliver justice."

The Foreign Office confirmed it has received Mr Belhaj's letter and said it is cooperating fully with investigations into allegations made by former Libyan detainees about UK involvement in their mistreatment by the Qaddafi regime.

Information about the renditions emerged after Qaddafi's overthrow in 2011. Documents were discovered that disclosed the cozy working ties between Qaddafi's spies and western intelligence officials.

Mr Belhaj's accusations are based on a document uncovered during the fall of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, that allegedly contained a message from ex-head of MI6, Mr Allen, referring to his rendition. The message, dated March 2004, was purportedly addressed to Qaddafi's former intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

Mr Belhaj's claim is one of several stemming from Britain's involvement in the US-led "war on terror" in the years after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

In one costly payout, the former Libyan dissident Sami Al Saadi and his family accepted £2.2 million from the British government to settle a claim that the UK approved his 2004 rendition to Libya, where he says he was detained and tortured for years. His wife and four children, aged 12 and under, were also unwillingly sent to Libya.

That settlement did not include a claim of responsibility, and British ministers have always denied any complicity in rendition or torture.