Settlement in Abdul-Hakim Belhaj rendition case to be announced

Abdelhakim Belhaj in 2011

Abdelhakim Belhaj in 2011

"It is clear that you were both subjected to appalling treatment and that you suffered greatly, not least the affront to the dignity of Ms Boudchar who was pregnant at the time", prime minister Theresa May wrote in a letter to the couple made public on Thursday.

The renditions happened at the height of the USA -led "war on terror", and at a time when Britain was trying to improve relations with Gadhafi, a former global pariah who had recently renounced weapons of mass destruction. Belhaj and Boudchar were abducted and taken to a Tripoli prison under Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Boudchar and her son Abderrahim will be present.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright read out a letter to the couple from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, where Mrs Boudchar and the son she was carrying 14 year ago were watching from the public gallery.

"I thank the British government for its apology and for inviting me and my son to the United Kingdom to hear it". We should have done more to reduce the risk that you would be mistreated.

"The U.K. government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", the letter said.

'On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I apologise unreservedly.

He said British agencies "were in some respects not prepared for the extreme demands suddenly placed on them" and were too slow to understand "the unacceptable practices of some of our worldwide partners". He fled the country in 2001. Other nations are alleged to have lent assistance in some cases.

British officials, including Jack Straw, then the foreign secretary and responsible for MI6, repeatedly denied that they had anything to do with the rendering of "terror" suspects, a practice more widely undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The apology is the first time that a minister has formally apologised for the actions of Britain's security services in a particular case and represents a remarkable volte face by the Government, which had repeatedly refused to give ground in court proceedings despite the existence of damning documents showing that MI6 had co-operated closely with Colonel Gaddafi's intelligence service.

'A great society does not torture; does not help others to torture; and, when it makes mistakes, it accepts them and apologises.

For several years, Mr Belhaj has refused to drop the case, without receiving an apology from the British government, alongside a symbolic payment of £1 from each of the defendants involved.

Wright told lawmakers that the pair had now withdrawn their claims against the British government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Mark Allen, a former senior officer in the MI6 intelligence agency. "We accept that this was a failing on our part".

She was released shortly before giving birth.

In a statement released by his lawyers, Mr Belhaj welcomed and accepted Mrs May's apology and said he extended his "thanks and honest goodwill" to the prime minister and Mr Wright.

Wright said the settlement contained no admission of liability. Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 at the time, has said: "It was a political decision, having very significantly disarmed Libya, for the government to cooperate with Libya on Islamist terrorism".

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