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UK Court Allows Libyan Commander to Sue British Government | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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FILE PHOTO – Abdul Hakeem Belhadj, leader of the Al-Watan party, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tripoli March 4, 2015. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny/File Photo

Cairo – Britain’s Supreme Court gave permission to former Libyan Islamist commander, Abdel Hakim Belhadj on Tuesday to sue the British government and its former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Belhadj, who was head of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group before toppling the regime of the late Muammar Gaddafi, said he suffered years of torture by Gaddafi’s supporters after British and U.S. spies handed him over to Libya. He also accused U.S. CIA agents of kidnapping him and his wife Fatima, who was pregnant at the time, in 2004 and illegally transferring them to Tripoli with the help of British spies.

The Supreme Court dismissed on Tuesday an appeal by the government to stop him from taking legal action. This paved the way for Belhadj and his wife to seek compensation from Straw, UK’s Domestic Security Service (MI5), Secret Intelligence Services (MI6), a senior former intelligence chief and relevant government departments.

However, Belhadj said he would drop the case if he was given a symbolic payment of 1 pound ($1.21) and an apology from all the parties involved.

Lawyer Sapna Malik representing Belhadj expressed her hope that the defendants would now: “see fit to apologize to our clients and acknowledge the wrongs done, so that they may turn the page on this wretched chapter of their lives and move on.”

Leigh Day, the London law firm, said documents found after Gaddafi’s fall showed British complicity in his case, but Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time in the government of Tony Blair, said he had always acted in line with British and international law.

“I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states,” he added in a statement.

Belhadj, who is now involved in politics, said he was originally detained in China, transferred to Malaysia and then moved to a CIA “black site” in Thailand. He was flown afterwards to Tripoli through the British Island of Diego Garcia. He was imprisoned and tortured until his release in 2010. At the time, Britain and the U.S. were keen to build good relations with Gaddafi.

Documents discovered revealed that MI6 contacted the Gaddafi regime about members of the opposition who fled the country. The documents also showed that the British security services helped the Libyan regime to arrest the couple in Bangkok.

A letter sent from Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism back then, to Libyan intelligence officials provided a hint that the arrest wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of the British intelligence.

British government didn’t deny nor confirm the validity of these documents, but the Supreme Court denied unanimously the government’s attempt to stop the litigation. The judgment concluded: “Claims that the rendition and torture of Abdel Hakim Belhadj breached rights enshrined in the Magna Carta should be put before an English court.”

Meanwhile in Libya, British Ambassador to Libya, Peter Millett, officially announced for the first time his support for the amendment of the UN-brokered Skhirat political agreement signed in Morocco in 2014.

Libyan News Agency (LANA) reported that the ambassador arrived Tuesday in Tobrug, eastern Libya, to meet with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Agilah Saleh.

Millett admitted that the Presidential Council of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) had failed to rule the country and do what it had been tasked with.

Millett agreed that the political agreement must be amended so that there would be only a President, two deputies and a prime minister and other personnel.

The British ambassador also promised to cooperate with the new U.N. Sec-Gen to change the U.N.’s envoy to Libya Martin Kobler because he has also failed in his mission.

Saleh said that the Ambassador conveyed his country’s respect for the will of the Libyan people and constitution. Millett confirmed that UK will support whatever the Libyan people agree on.

Marshal Khalifa Haftar met with the commander of Operation Karama – dignity in Arabic – Lieutenant Abul Salam al-Hasi. Haftar praised the victories of the army and the liberation of Abu Sneib district.

Haftar refused any humanitarian aid sent from Italy before the departure of all Italian soldiers from Misrata and all Libyan territory.

In addition, 16 members of the parliament froze their memberships until the social situations in the south of the country are improved. The members also threatened of taking escalatory measures if the authorities didn’t tackle the problems.