UK: Gov't apologizes for treatment of Libyan national

Mr Belhaj was abducted along with his wife and placed in a CIA prison in Bangkok

Britain has apologized "unreservedly" for its role in the capture of a Libyan dissident who was later tortured by the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi's government.

Britain has reached a settlement with Abdul Hakim Belhadj, a Libyan former rebel leader who says he suffered years of torture by Muammar Gaddafi's henchmen after British and USA spies handed him over to Libya, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Britain yesterday apologised for contributing to the mistreatment of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former Islamist fighter turned politician who was kidnapped and handed over to Libya in 2004 and subsequently tortured, in an unprecedented admission of culpability.

The couple's battle for an apology and compensation, which lasted for six years, came to light after the success of the Libyan revolution in 2011, after which papers were released, showing the involvement of British intelligence in their kidnapping.

The British government accepted the couple "were subjected to a harrowing ordeal which caused them significant distress", and said that it had reached "a full and final settlement" with them both.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the settlement with the couple included a £500,000 payment to Ms Boudchar.

"The U.K. government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", the letter said.

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

However, friends of the couple said the United Kingdom had agreed to pay Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar's "substantial" legal fees. "We accept this was a failing on our part". Belhaj was given a copy of May's letter by Britain's ambassador to Turkey in Istanbul, where the family now lives.

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"I welcome and accept the prime minister's apology, and I extend to her and the attorney general my thanks and honest goodwill", Belhaj said to the Guardian.

"By today's settlement, I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honour, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five attractive children".

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

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Boudchar said she was chained to a wall and tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency when she was pregnant while being detained at a secret site in Thailand.

He was handed over to Central Intelligence Agency agents, acting on a tip-off from MI6, and flown via the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Tripoli, because at the time Britain and the United States were keen to build relations with Gaddafi.

Belhaj denied that any links between the group and al-Qaeda existed and said he believed his rendition to Libya was part of a covert deal between former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown and killed in a popular uprising in 2011.

"We should have understood much sooner the unacceptable practices of some of our worldwide partners".

Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the rendition case, issued a statement in which he said he had "sought to act at all times in a manner which was fully consistent with my legal duties, and with national and worldwide law".

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