Libyan politician to settle rendition suit for just £3
Low award sought in protest to UK claims secret courts needed to handle such cases
A Libyan politician who is suing the former British foreign secretary Jack Straw and the British government for damages after being kidnapped and taken to one of Muammar Gaddafi's jails has offered to settle the case for just £3 (HK$35), providing he also receives an unreserved apology.
In a challenge to British government claims that a new generation of secret courts is needed to prevent large payouts to claimants in national security cases, Abdel Hakim Belhaj says he will settle the action for £1 each from the government, Straw, and Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at intelligence service MI6. Another dissident, who was abducted from Hong Kong, received a £2.2 million pay-out in a similar action.
Belhaj was leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, opposing the Libyan dictator, when he and his wife were detained by US intelligence officers at Bangkok airport in March 2004.
Allegedly he was tortured for several days while his wife, who was five months' pregnant, was chained to a wall at a secret jail at the airport. The couple was then flown to Tripoli, where Belhaj spent the next six years in jail.
Now leader of the Libyan Al-Watan party, Belhaj launched proceedings after a number of previously secret documents, discovered in a Tripoli office building during the 2011 revolution, showed that Allen had written to Musa Kusa, Gaddafi's intelligence chief at the time, to claim credit for providing the tip-off that led to the couple's detention.
Belhaj says he was repeatedly tortured in Gaddafi's prisons, and that he was interrogated by British intelligence officers who knew how he was being treated. His wife, Fatima Bouchar, who had been taped to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, was detained for four months, being released shortly before giving birth.
Belhaj wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron last week to say that he would settle for just £1 from each defendant, providing each of them unreservedly apologised to his wife and himself. In his letter, Belhaj says he will "forever be grateful to Britain" for helping the Libyan people topple Gaddafi, and that he is anxious to see good relations between the two countries.