Britain apologises and pays damages to Libyan couple over their rendition and torture

Abdul Hakim Belhadj

Britain has apologised and agreed to pay compensation to a Libyan man and his wife over the role of British spies in their 2004 rendition from Thailand to Libya, where they say they were tortured. 

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said long-running legal claims brought by Abdul Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Boudchar against British officials and security agencies had now been withdrawn as part of a full and final settlement between them and the British government.

Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time of the rendition and was detained in Gaddafi’s Libya until shortly before giving birth, was in the public gallery in Parliament with her son to hear Wright’s statement.

“Following mediation, the UK government has reached a full and final settlement of Mr Belhadj and Mrs Boudchar’s claims,” Wright said.  “No admissions of liability have been made by any of the defendants … The government has agreed to pay Mrs Boudchar 500,000 pounds.”

“The Prime Minister has now written to them both to apologise,” he said, adding that the British government believed Belhadj and Boudchar’s account of what had happened to them.

Belhaj, who was a prominent opponent of then Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi and subsequently fought in the war to topple him, was kidnapped with his wife in 2004 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. They were then transported by plane to Bangkok, after which they were placed in CIA custody at a secret prison at the airport.

Eventually the couple were returned to Libya where Belhadj was held at the Abu Salim prison for six years. His wife was released after a few months just before the birth of their child. They say the abuse they endured included kidnapping, torture and detention-without-trial.

Belhaj filed a case against the British government over its role in his rendition to Libya, a country which was then on good terms with the UK. Under special scrutiny was Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time, and Tony Blair, then prime minister.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.

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