Former Libyan insurgent Abdul Hakim Belhaj torture and illegal rendition appeal against UK Government to be heard today

Belhaj alleges that he and his wife were unlawfully abducted and taken back to face Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in a conspiracy involving British authorities

A Libyan politician who claims the UK Government was involved in his and his pregnant wife’s illegal rendition, torture and mistreatment is to have his case heard at the Court of Appeal today.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who led an insurgency against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi before fleeing Libya in 1996, says that he and Moroccan Fatima Boudchar were abducted and detained by US secret agents with the help of British authorities.

The couple was ultimately returned to Libya to be tortured and jailed by the dictator’s government, Belhaj says, until the uprising in 2011 saw Belhaj emerge as a new political leader.

They now want an apology, admittance of liability from the Government and a token £1 compensation payment – but in December a High Court judge ruled that their claims are beyond the jurisdiction of the UK courts.

The case involves claims against the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, the ex-head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and it reportedly played a key role in the Government’s decision to bring in controversial “secret court” powers with the new Justice and Security Act last year.

Read more: Full text of letter from 'rendition victim' Belhaj

According to Belhaj’s lawyers, British agents are “bang to rights” on being involved because “someone from Human Rights Watch found a fax [in the aftermath of the fall of the Gaddafi regime] from [Sir Mark] boasting about the support that the Brits had provided in handing over Belhaj”.

His lawyers also claimed that the British embassy in Kuala Lumpur informed the CIA of Belhaj’s whereabouts and plans to seek asylum in London, and that when the couple were being rendered to Libya in March 2004 the plane stopped off to refuel on the British island of Diego Garcia.

Mr Belhaj said that, in Bangkok, they were detained by American intelligence and he was tortured while his pregnant wife was chained to a wall by one hand and one foot on the opposite side. After they arrived in Tripoli he spent six years in jail and his wife was only released three weeks before she gave birth, he said.

Jack Straw has denied complicity in the rendition of Abdul Hakim Belhaj Jack Straw has denied complicity in the rendition of Abdul Hakim Belhaj But in the hearing last year Rory Phillips QC told the High Court judge that the alleged unlawful detention and mistreatment was carried out by officials in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Libya – none of whom were defendants in the action – and not by the UK authorities.

The Government was instead said by Belhaj's lawyers to be liable on the principles of secondary liability by acquiescing, assisting, encouraging and conspiring in what happened.

Mr Justice Simon in the end agreed with the defendants that the case against them would require the court to decide whether the conduct of US officials acting outside the US was unlawful.

The hearing at the Court of Appeal is before the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lady Justice Sharp.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada