United Kingdom apologises to Libyan dissident Belhaj over rendition

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A Libyan dissident whom United Kingdom spies helped capture and hand over for torture in Muammar Gaddafi's prisons was pleased to receive an unprecedented apology from Britain, his lawyer told Sputnik.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Colonel Gaddafi, and his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar were abducted by CIA agents with the help of the British intelligence services in 2004.

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.

While the Saadi family received a £2m ($2.5m) settlement two years ago, Belhaj insisted he only wanted an apology and a symbolic £1 ($1.24) payment from each of the defendants.

Theresa May has apologised on behalf of the Government for the UK's role in a Libyan couple's prison ordeal.

Jack Straw has also welcomed the withdrawal of proceedings against him, reiterating that whilst he had a "limited" recollection of the events, he had always assumed the actions he was approving as foreign secretary were lawful.

MPs also sought assurance that such a case would not happen again from attorney general Jeremy Wright, who argued that it was hard to balance the issue of national security and its cooperation with foreign agencies who may use torture. "I welcome and accept the prime minister's apology, and I extend to her and the attorney general my thanks and honest goodwill".

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Belhaj was held for more than six years and said he was subjected to torture.

The Prime Minister wrote: "The UK Government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering".

"The best that I think any government can do is to put in place the processes and practices that mean the right values are applied to the judgements that we have to take, including in what are very hard cases". The UK Government shared information about you with its global partners.

"Later, during your detention in Libya, we sought information about and from you. But 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 lovely children". "We accept this was a failing on our part", Wright further added.

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. The rendition operation took place shortly before then prime minister Tony Blair's "Deal in the Desert" with the eccentric dictator to bring in Libya from the cold and co-operate in areas including the so-called War on Terror.

Wright told lawmakers that in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Britain and its worldwide partners "were suddenly adapting to a completely new type and scale of threat".

"The government has enacted reforms to ensure that the problems of the past will not be repeated", Wright said.