Ex-Libyan rebel offers to settle with UK govt

LONDON (AP) — A Libyan military commander who is suing the British government over its alleged role in his detention and rendition has offered to settle for 3 pounds ($4.50) and an apology, saying he is seeking justice, not personal enrichment.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife are suing the British government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the MI6 spy agency, Mark Allen.

Belhaj, a former fighter in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that had opposed the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, claims that both British and U.S. intelligence may have played a role in his 2004 detention in Thailand and his transfer to Tripoli, where he spent years in prison.

He said Monday he has sent an open letter to the British government offering to drop the case in return for a token 1 pound compensation from each defendant along with an apology and an admission of liability.

"It is certainly true that my wife and I suffered deeply during our kidnap and in Libya," Belhaj said in a statement issued by his supporters, the Reprieve charity. "But we have come to court in Britain because we believe your courts can deliver justice."

The Foreign Office confirmed it has received Belhaj's letter and said it is cooperating fully with investigations into allegations made by former Libyan detainees about U.K. involvement in their mistreatment by the Gadhafi regime.

Information about the renditions emerged after Gadhafi's overthrow in 2011. Documents were discovered that disclosed the cozy working ties between Gadhafi's spies and Western intelligence officials.

Belhaj's accusations are based on a document uncovered during the fall of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, that allegedly contained a message from ex-head of MI6, Allen, referring to his rendition. The message, dated March 2004, was purportedly addressed to Gadhafi's former intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

Belhaj's claim is one of several stemming from Britain's involvement in the U.S.-led "war on terror" in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In one costly payout, former Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi and his family accepted 2.2 million pounds from the British government to settle a claim that the U.K. approved his 2004 rendition to Libya, where he says he was detained and tortured for years. His wife and four children, aged 12 and under, were also unwillingly sent to Libya.

That settlement did not include a claim of responsibility, and British ministers have always denied any complicity in rendition or torture.

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Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd
Associated Press
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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