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24 Apr, 2019 19:00

Britain spent £11mn resisting apology, compensation in Libya rendition case

Britain spent £11mn resisting apology, compensation in Libya rendition case

The UK government used more than £11 million in public funds to fight a lawsuit that sought compensation and an apology for the government’s role in the 2004 rendition of Libyan militant Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

Government lawyers were paid a total of £4.4 million for working the case, while Belhaj’s counsel received £6.9 million, all drawn from state funds, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

The huge expense shows the lengths the government went to to resist Belhaj’s suit, which, in addition to a formal apology and monetary redress, also demanded the prosecution of a British intelligence officer involved in the rendition.

Britain spent £11mn resisting apology, compensation in Libya rendition case

According to Libyan security documents discovered in the ruins of a government outpost soon after the country’s 2011 uprising, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) abducted Belhaj, along with his pregnant wife, in a Thailand airport in 2004.

The couple was sent back to Libya, where Belhaj was wanted for ties to armed groups, and both were imprisoned. Belhaj was released in a “deradicalization” program after seven years in prison, while his wife was freed soon after she gave birth.

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The role of British intelligence in Belhaj’s capture and rendition was revealed in the same Libyan security documents. The UK’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, coordinated with the CIA and a Libyan intelligence agency to kidnap Belhaj and send him back to Libya.

In his suit Belhaj alleged that British intelligence officers knew he was being tortured in prison, but said they did nothing to help him. His pregnant wife also endured torture.

In the end, after eight years in the courts the British government gave in and apologized, awarding Belhaj and his wife £500,000 in restitution. The government ultimately decided not to charge the MI6 officer accused in the suit.