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Senior lawmaker says United Kingdom to apologize to Libyan dissident

Senior lawmaker says United Kingdom to apologize to Libyan dissident

Another Libyan dissident, Sami al-Saadi, who was returned to Tripoli from Hong Kong in a joint British-Libyan operation and jailed for six years, accepted a settlement of £2.2 million in 2012 from the United Kingdom government.

The UK government has issued an "unreserved" apology and awarded £500,000 ($676,000) to Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, in compensation for the British security services' involvement in their extraordinary rendition to the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Belhadj, who commanded an Islamist rebel group that helped topple Gaddafi in 2011 and is now a politician, says he and his pregnant wife Fatima were abducted by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency agents in Thailand in 2004 and then illegally transferred to Tripoli with the help of British spies.

The couple legally challenged the UK's former foreign affairs minister, numerous government ministries, and a senior British intelligence official, as part of their effort to obtain an apology and "symbolic damages".

Instead, we had mealy-mouthed references to how British intelligence officers "should have done better to reduce the risk of ill-treatment".

"The U.K. government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", the letter said. "We accept this was a failing on our part", Wright further added.

While Boudchar was awarded half a million pounds in compensation, Belhaj has neither sought, nor received a financial settlement.

She was in the public gallery in the House of Commons with her son on Thursday to hear a public statement about the case, during which Ms May's letter of apology was read out in full by Britain's attorney general, Jeremy Wright.

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At a news conference in Istanbul, where he lives, Belhaj expressed "his gratitude for this courageous move".

In letter sent to then-prime minister David Cameron in 2013, Mr Belhaj said: Various media reports I have seen suggest that our motive for bringing this case is to enrich ourselves. "But by today's settlement I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honor, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five lovely children".

For six years government lawyers fought tooth and nail in the courts to prevent the disclosure of any more incriminating evidence.

At the time, Britain and the United States were trying to mend relations with Gadafy's Libya for geopolitical reasons, after years during which the Tripoli regime had been an worldwide pariah.

Their kidnap in Thailand and rendition to Libya occurred two weeks before then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the north African state to meet Gaddafi.

After Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, documents were discovered that disclosed the cozy working ties between Gadhafi's spies and Western intelligence officials.

He said British agencies "were in some respects not prepared for the extreme demands suddenly placed on them" and were too slow to understand "the unacceptable practices of some of our global partners".

Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time in the government of Tony Blair, said he had always acted in line with British and global law.


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