By Libya Herald reporters.
London, 30 October 2014:
The British government has failed in its latest attempt to stop Abdel Hakim Belhaj from . . .[restrict]suing it over his 2004 abduction and rendition to Libya and torture in Qaddafi’s prisons. The Appeal Court in London today cleared Belhaj to continue his action.
The Libyan dissident was seized with his Moroccan wife, Fatima Bouchar in Malaysia in what he has claimed was a joint operation between the American CIA and British intelligence. He was brought back , via Thailand to Libya where he spent six years in prison, mostly at Abu Selim.
While being held in Tajoura, Belhaj said that he was interrogated by members of the British Security Service, more widely known as MI6. He has said that on the two or three occasions that the British came, he tried to tell them that he was being tortured, but they were uninterested.
Backed by Amnesty International, Belhaj is suing the then British foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former MI6 spy chief who reported to him. The original action was thrown out by the High Court but Belhaj’s legal team was, this July, given permission to challenge the decision in the court of appeal.
It is this challenge which has today been successful. The appeal judge overturned the ruling that British courts do not have jurisdiction over an event that had occurred in another country. The way is thus clear for the case to be heard in London.
The evidence on which Belhaj is basing his claim came to light after files of secret documents were seized in Tripoli after the revolution. In one of them, the MI6 chief congratulates his Libyan opposite number Moussa Koussa on the arrival of Belhaj back in Libya. He adds that it was the least that the UK could do for Libya.
Belhaj has always maintained that he is not pursing his action for financial compensation. He is reported to be seeking just £1 in damages plus his costs. He has said that what he really wants is an admission of wrong-doing by the British and an unreserved public apology.
It is understood this evening that the British government is appealing the case to the Supreme Court. In December 2012, a similar illegal rendition case saw the British government pay LD 4 million to Sami Al-Saadi on the condition he dropped his action. It did not, however, admit any guilt or responsibility.