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Government apology for Gaddafi torture victim

By Jon Craig, Chief political correspondent
The British Government is expected to make a dramatic apology to a Libyan couple who were tortured  by Colonel Gaddafi's brutal regime after Tony Blair's  "deal in the desert" with the dictator.
The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, will make a statement to MPs about Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, who allege the UK was involved in their unlawful rendition to Libya.
Mr Wright's Commons statement will follow a Supreme Court judgement on their claim that they were kidnapped by Colonel Gaddafi's forces following a tip-off from British intelligence services.Mr Belhaj, who was leader of a rebel force, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and his wife allege they were handed over to Gaddafi through a joint M16-CIA following Mr Blair's 2004 deal.The 52-year-old dissident, who spent six years in jail in Libya before Gaddafi fell from power in the Arab Spring of 2011, claims he was tortured throughout his imprisonment.His wife, who was five months pregnant when they were returned to Libya, was released just before she gave birth.The couple have fought a long, high-profile battle with the British Government, claiming part of the deal to reopen diplomatic links with Libya involved the illegal kidnapping and flying of Libyan dissidents to Tripoli.The couple's legal battle has been backed by Reprieve, a group of international lawyers and investigators which campaigns and fights for victims of "extreme human rights abuses".Mr Belhaj had sued the Home Office, Foreign Office, the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and the former head of counter-terrorism at M16, Sir Mark Allen, for token compensation.
Government apology for Gaddafi torture victim

Image:
Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi in 2007
But he had always said that he would drop his case for an apology and an admission of liability by the British Government and a nominal sum of €3 - €1 from each of the defendants in the civil action.Until now, the Government has never publicly accepted any liability for what happened to the couple. So Mr Wright's statement to MPs amounts to a massive climbdown.The Government's decision to settle the case comes weeks after a judge in pre-trial hearings ordered the Metropolitan Police to hand over to Mr Belhaj's lawyers' evidence accumulated in a criminal investigation that supported his case.
"It is understood any deal won't involve large financial compensation," said a source."Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar have always sought a public apology from the Government."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.The case covers a period from when the couple were detained by Chinese authorities at Beijing airport for two days before being deported to Malaysia and held for two weeks.They were then flown to Thailand - believing they were on their way to London - and later taken to Libya on an aircraft said to be owned by a CIA front company.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.They have always denied being motivated by money, seeking only minimal compensation from the British Government.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.
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"I wish to lay this misconception to rest. It is certainly true that my wife and I suffered deeply during our kidnap and in Libya."But we have come to court in Britain because we believe your courts can deliver justice."
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