4 Mar 2013

Libyan torture victim’s £3 settlement offer to UK government

Libyan politican Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is suing the British government over its alleged role in his kidnap and torture, says he will drop the case for £3, an apology and an admission of liability.

offeAbdel Hakim Belhaj, who has red to drop his case against the British government for 3 pounds, an apology, and an admission of liability (picture: Reuters)

Mr Belhaj is suing the government, former foreign secretary Jack Straw, and former head of of counter-terrorism at MI6 Sir Mark Allen, over an alleged tip-off which led to him being detained in an airport in Thailand by American intelligence officers, before being deported to Tripoli.

In 2004 Mr Belhaj, then leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which opposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was detained at the airport. It is alleged he was tortured for several days at a prison at the airport while his pregnant wife was kept chained to a wall.

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

‘Open offer’

On Sunday night, Mr Belhaj’s supporters at Reprieve, the human rights group, said he would drop the legal case in exchange for a nominal £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.”

‘The price of a latte’

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.”

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