The British authorities have offered Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj one million pounds sterling in compensation, The Guardian writes citing unnamed sources.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj filed a lawsuit against Sir Mark Allen, the MI6 officer responsible for counter-terrorism in 2004. The Libyan and his wife Fatima Bouchar claim that their hand-over to the Gaddafi regime was initiated by the British government which in turn authorized MI6 to carry it out.
The decision to that effect was taken by the then Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair. When asked about it now, the ex prime minister has defended MI6’s actions saying that “security services do a very difficult job in very difficult circumstances”.
Back in 2004, Belhaj was wanted by Libyan authorities in connection with his activities as one of the leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a movement that fought against the Gaddafi regime. After the British special services handed Belhaj over to Libya, he was jailed and was subjected to brutal treatment for several years. He was not released until 2010.
Belhaj says that MI6 effectively cooperated with Gaddafi’s regime. In a letter to head of Libyan intelligence Moussa Koussa which was discovered after rebel forces seized Tripoli in August 2011, Sir Mark Allen congratulates Koussa on the safe arrival of the “air cargo”, which implied Belhaj.
Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary in 2004, says that the government was opposed to the unlawful hand-over and acted in strict compliance with the law. Mr.Straw also underscores that the Gaddafi regime gave assurances that the dissidents would not be mistreated if Britain handed them over. Apparently, those were all but empty promises.
Now, the British authorities are trying to buy off Belhaj in order to avoid MI6 appearing in court and spare its agents the prospect of giving evidence and thereby disclosing information about the unattractive activities of the country’s special services.
Given the situation, the defendants will surely refer to the 1994 Law on Intelligence under which intelligence agents have immunity to prosecution if their actions are authorized by the government.
The London police are currently conducting an inquiry into Belhaj’s claims against MI6 and the British government.
While it’s not clear what the outcome of the inquiry will be, it’s evident that London established a partnership with the Gaddafi regime, although the British authorities and news media used to deny that saying that Britain’s and the US’ cooperation with Libya hinged solely on the struggle against terrorism, Al Qaeda in particular. Judging by the Belhaj claim, American and British special services seized not only Al Qaeda-linked terrorists, but Libyan dissidents as well.
Belhaj’s lawsuit against the British government and special services on charges of complicity in the torture of terror suspects is not the first one. Similar lawsuits have been filed before and every time the British government managed to hush them up and emerge unscathed. 12 former Guantanamo inmates filed a lawsuit with the London High Court in November 2010.
Among the plaintiffs were British citizens and foreigners who sought political asylum. The British government bought them off saving a lot of money in legal expenses and the reputation of its special services.
Apparently, history repeats itself. But unlike the past, this time the accusations come from a person who occupies a high position in the Libyan government and is no match for Guanatanamo prisoners. Now, it all depends on Belhaj: whether he will fight to the last or choose to collect the one million pound sterling and back off. What he will opt for will become clear in the near future.