Tony Blair under pressure to say sorry for Libyan couple's torture case

Erika Holt
May 11, 2018

Britain acknowledged Thursday that its intelligence agents played a role in the kidnapping and torture of an opponent of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the man's wife - a rare admission of wrongdoing by British spies.

"The UK government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", Prime Minister Theresa May said in a letter to Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, which was read out in parliament by Attorney General Jeremy Wright.

They say British intelligence provided information that helped the CIA abduct them and have spent years pursuing British officials through United Kingdom courts seeking compensation and an apology.

Boudchar, who was at parliament with her son to hear the apology, thanked the government for saying sorry. Mr Belhaj will receive the apology immediately afterward at a separate ceremony in Istanbul. Allen congratulated Moussa on Belhaj's "safe arrival" in Tripoli, adding that British involvement in the operation was "the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years".

Cori Crider said the couple had spent more than six years fighting for justice in court and had had four more children while the litigation was pending.

Mr Wright said the apology, along with compensation of £500,000 for Ms Boudchar and unspecified legal costs, represented a "full and final" settlement of the couple's six-year battle with the British state after they were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and delivered to the former Libyan dictator's torturers.

"The U.K. government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", the letter said. "We accept that this was a failing on our part".

Tony Blair under pressure to say sorry for Libyan couple's torture case
Tony Blair under pressure to say sorry for Libyan couple's torture case

"The best that I think any government can do is to put in place the processes and practices that mean the right values are applied to the judgements that we have to take, including in what are very hard cases. But by today's settlement I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honour, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five attractive children".

Reacting to the apology, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj said: "I welcome and accept the Prime Minister's apology, and I extend to her and the Attorney General my thanks and goodwill".

Writing in The New York Times this week, Mrs Boudchar said "The worst torture of my life wasn't done to me by Col. Muammar Qaddafi thugs".

His rendition took place two weeks before Tony Blair, the prime minister, travelled... She said she wanted to know what Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, knew about her mistreatment.

After Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, documents were discovered that disclosed the cozy working ties between Gadhafi's spies and Western intelligence officials.

"It is also important that we should act in line with our values and in accordance with the rule of law", Wright said in his statement.

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