Britain reached a settlement with Abdul Hakim Belhadj, a Libyan former rebel leader who said he suffered years of torture by Muammar Gaddafi’s henchmen after British and US spies handed him to Libya, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Belhadj, who commanded an Islamist rebel group that helped topple Gaddafi in 2011 and is now a politician, said he and his pregnant wife Fatima were abducted by US CIA agents in Thailand in 2004 and illegally transferred to Tripoli with the help of British spies.
Under the administration of former President George W. Bush, the CIA practised so-called “extraordinary renditions”, or extra-judicial transfers of suspects from one country to another, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Other nations are alleged to have assisted in some cases.
The practice has been widely denounced around the world.
Belhadj pursued legal action for years against former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, domestic and foreign spy agencies MI5 and MI6, a former intelligence chief and government departments, seeking an apology from all parties involved.
The Guardian did not name its sources or give details of the settlement reached. It said Attorney General Jeremy Wright, the government’s top lawyer, would make a statement about the matter in parliament.
The attorney general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The British government tried to stop Belhadj from taking legal action, but the Supreme Court in January 2017 dismissed government’s arguments and gave Belhadj permission to sue those he said were responsible for his illegal transfer.
Belhadj said he was originally detained in China, before being transferred to Malaysia and then moved to a CIA “black site” in Thailand.
He was handed to CIA agents, acting on a tip-off from MI6, and flown via the British island of Diego Garcia to Tripoli, because at the time Britain and the United States were keen to build relations with Gaddafi.
As a long-standing enemy of the former Libyan leader, he was imprisoned and tortured until his release in 2010. His wife was also allegedly mistreated during her four-month incarceration.
Straw, foreign secretary at the time in Tony Blair’s government said he always acted in line with British and international law.
“I was never in any way complicit in unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states,” he said in a statement.