Libyan commander sues UK over torture claim

Abdelhakim Belhaj says MI6 knew he was being tortured but did nothing to stop it

A Libyan Islamist who is now the military commander of the capital, Tripoli, is suing Britain for its role in his rendition into imprisonment and torture at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Abdelhakim Belhaj said he has taken recourse to legal action after waiting in vain for the British government to offer an apology for his seven years of incarceration in the secret police's jails.

The central plank of his case would be information from files discovered in Tripoli by The Independent after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi's regime. They contained letters from Sir Mark Allen, then MI6's head of counter-terrorism, to Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, in which he appears to boast about the key role played by his service in the capture and transportation of Mr Belhaj.

In a previous interview with The Independent, Mr Belhaj said he told British intelligence agents who had visited him in Tripoli of his mistreatment. "They knew I was being tortured," he said. "I hoped they would do something about it. I was too terrified during the meeting to say out loud what was being done to me because I thought the Libyans [secret police] were taping what was going on. When the guards left I made sign movements with my hands. The British people nodded, showed they understood. But nothing changed; the torture continued for a long time."

There was nothing to suggest in a tranche of MI6 papers that the UK raised concerns about his ordeal with the regime. Instead, there are repeated requests to the Libyan secret police for information about Mr Belhaj, including one believed to be from Sir Mark, who now works for BP, when arranging Tony Blair's visit to meet Colonel Gaddafi. "I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week. Abu Abd Allah's [a nom-de-guerre for Mr Belhaj] information on the situation in this country is of urgent importance to us."

Mr Belhaj, a former head of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group, was arrested with British help along with his wife, Fatima Boucher, in 2004 and handed over to the Americans, who passed them on to the Libyan authorities. Ms Belhaj was released after four months.

Their cases are now the subject of a wider British inquiry into allegations of complicity by UK security agencies in prisoner abuse and officials in London hold that no apology can be legally given to Mr Belhaj and his wife while the investigation continues.

Mr Belhaj achieved one of the most important military posts in post-revolutionary Libya and was expected to be appointed Defence Minister. But the country's new Prime Minister, Abdurrahim al-Keib, chose a broadly secular cabinet with the post going to Osama al-Juwali.

Mr Belhaj's solicitors are acting on behalf of Iraqi civilians who had allegedly suffered maltreatment in the hands of British forces. Sapna Malik, from Leigh Day, said: "The barbaric treatment which our clients describe, both at the hands of the Americans and the Libyans, is beyond comprehension and yet it appears that the UK was responsible for setting off this chain of events."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue