UK

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, Gaddafi Torture Victim, Willing To Settle For £3 And An Apology From UK Government

04/03/2013 07:26 GMT

A Libyan politician suing the government for damages amid claims a tip-off led to him being kidnapped and tortured in a Gaddafi jail will drop his case for £3, an apology and an admission of liability, his legal supporters said.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a leading figure in the rebel forces before the dictator was killed, is taking legal action against the government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6.

Mr Belhaj said he was taking the token payment to prove his motives for bringing the case were not about "enriching" himself but to achieve justice.

abdel hakim belhaj

Abdel Hakim Belhaj was a leading figure in the rebel forces before Gaddafi was killed

In 2004 Mr Belhaj was leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, opposing the Libyan dictator, when he and his wife were detained by American intelligence officers at Bangkok airport in Thailand.

He was allegedly tortured for several days while his wife, Fatima Boudchar, who was five months' pregnant, was chained to a wall at a secret prison at the airport.

The couple were then flown to Tripoli, where Mr Belhaj spent the next six years in jail.

It is claimed British intelligence was responsible for a tip-off that led to their capture.

Last night, Mr Belhaj's supporters at Reprieve, the human rights group, said he would drop the legal case in exchange for a £1 payment from each respondent as well as an apology and admission of liability.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Straw, and Sir Mark, Mr Belhaj said: "I am making an open offer to settle our litigation.

"My wife and I are willing to end our case against the UK government and Messrs Straw and Allen in exchange for a token compensation of a British pound from each defendant, an apology and an admission of liability for what was done to us."

He added: "Various media reports I have seen suggest that our motive for bringing this case is to enrich ourselves.

"I wish to lay this misconception to rest.

"It is certainly true that my wife and I suffered deeply during our kidnap and in Libya.

"But we have come to court in Britain because we believe your courts can deliver justice."

Reprieve legal director Cori Crider said: "What our clients want from the government is an admission, an apology and an explanation of how this was allowed to happen.

"It is time to put the ghosts of Tony Blair's toxic 'deal in the desert' with Gaddafi to rest, and this is the perfect opportunity for David Cameron to do so.

"Fatima Boudchar and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj are asking for justice - and the token 'payment' will cost the PM the price of his latte.

"The next time the government repeats its mantra that secret courts will save the public purse, remember: this family was willing to walk away for £3."

Sapna Malik, a lawyer representing Mr Belhaj and his wife, said: "Mr Belhaj and his wife Fatima were motivated to bring their case to the UK, not for money, but because they believed the British courts would deliver a fair trial and hold to account those responsible for their rendition and torture.

"They are now offering a swift resolution to their claim, which would deliver what is most important to them, apologies and admissions of wrongdoing."