abdul-hakim belhaj
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj

A Gaddafi opponent and his wife will settle their case against the UK government for £1 and an apology.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who was heavily pregnant at the time, were rendered back to Libya in 2004 by British agents.

They are suing the UK government, Jack Straw and Mark Allen - the then foreign secretary and director of counter-terrorism at MI6 at the time of their capture.

Belhaj and Boudchar were abducted and tortured. Documents found in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi showed that Allen had written to the dictator's spy chief Moussa Koussa.

He said that while the US had paid the "air cargo" for the rendition, the intelligence was British.

Belhaj sought to overthrow Gaddafi in the 1990s with an Islamist insurgent group. He began legal action in 2012 after he was detained by US intelligence officers at Bangkok airport in 2004.

He believes he was then rendered from Bangkok to Libya by the CIA and that his rendition - where people are illegally transferred from one jurisdiction to another - was approved by the UK government.

Belhaj said British intelligence was responsible for the lead that resulted in his capture.

After being captured, he was held in Tripoli's Abu Saleen prison for four years.

In a letter to David Cameron, Straw and Allen, he said: "I am making an open offer to settle our litigation.

"My wife and I are willing to end our case against the UK government and Messrs Straw and Allen in exchange for a token compensation of £1 from each defendant, an apology and an admission of liability for what was done to us.

"Various media reports suggest that our motive for bringing this case is to enrich ourselves. 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."

Tony Blair Gaddafi
Tony Blair’s Deal in the Desert helped Gaddafi track down his opponents (Reuters) Reuters

Belhaj made the offer as the government announced plans for secret courts.

Belhaj said: "It seems the UK government wants our case to be heard in secret. I have been a victim of a secret trial before - in Gaddafi's Libya. I have seen press reports of ministers seeking to justify secret trials on the basis that the government has to pay large settlements to protect national security. You can now settle this case at little cost to the UK taxpayer."

Sapna Malik, of law firm Leigh Day, said: "Mr Belhaj and his wife, Fatima, were motivated to bring their case to the UK, not for money, but because they believed the British courts would deliver a fair trial and hold to account those responsible for their rendition and torture.

"They are now offering a swift resolution to their claim, which would deliver what is most important to them, apologies and admissions of wrongdoing."

After the abduction, fellow dissident Sami al-Saadi was seized in another US-UK operation and renditioned along with his wife and four young children to Libya.

It formed part of the secret half of Tony Blair's "Deal in the Desert" with Gaddafi, in which UK intelligence helped to track down and hand over the dictator's opponents.

Cori Crider, legal director at human rights organisation Reprieve, said: "What our clients want from the government is an admission, an apology and an explanation of how this was allowed to happen.

"It is time to put the ghosts of Tony Blair's toxic Deal in the Desert with Gaddafi to rest, and this is the perfect opportunity for David Cameron to do so. Fatima Boudchar and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj are asking for justice - and the token payment will cost the PM the price of his latte.

"The next time the government repeats its mantra that secret courts will save the public purse, remember: this family was willing to walk away for £3."