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United Kingdom apologises to Libyan dissident Belhaj over rendition

11 May 2018

Attorney General Jeremy Wright told lawmakers that Prime Minister Theresa May had apologized "unreservedly" to Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, acknowledging that Britain's actions "contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering".

Ms Boudchar and her son Abderrahim are due to attend the Attorney General's statement in Parliament, while Mr Belhaj will be holding a news conference in Istanbul shortly afterwards.

Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, have been battling for compensation from former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 Sir Mark Allen, as well as the intelligence agency and the Foreign Office themselves, for the past six years, after evidence emerged of the involvement of MI6 officers, alongside the CIA, in their 2004 kidnap in Thailand. But he read from May's letter to the couple, which said Britain was "profoundly sorry for the ordeal that you both suffered and our role in it". "I accept the government's apology", Boudchar said. Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time, says she was tortured and released before giving birth to a son.

British officials, including Jack Straw, then the foreign secretary and responsible for MI6, repeatedly denied that they had anything to do with the rendering of "terror" suspects, a practice more widely undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr Belhadj, who had said all along he was seeking an apology rather than money, did not receive a financial settlement.

The couple were flown to Tripoli where Mr Belhaj, who opposed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, was tortured during his six years in jail.

Boudchar who was at parliament with her son to hear the apology, welcomed the verdict: "I thank the British government for its apology and for inviting me and my son to the United Kingdom to hear it. I believe this is such a case".

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"The UK government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering. But by today's settlement I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honor".

Mr Belhaj says that while in Bangkok, they were detained by American intelligence and he was tortured while his pregnant wife was chained to a wall.

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

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. Now, at last, justice has been done.

"A great society does not torture, does not help others to torture, and when it makes mistakes it accepts them and apologises", Mr Belhadj said.

In an earlier statement, he argued Britain had "set an example for other nations to follow".

United Kingdom apologises to Libyan dissident Belhaj over rendition