Libyan commander to sue UK govt for torture

Last Updated: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 21:05

London: A Libyan military commander has
started legal action against the British government, which he
claims was complicit in his illegal rendition and torture as a
suspected al Qaeda sympathiser.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj said he and his pregnant wife were
detained in Bangkok in 2004, then transferred to Abu Salim
jail, Tripoli.

He said he was held there for six years and often
tortured.

Belhaj, who is now the military commander of Tripoli,
worked with NATO as one of the leaders of the forces that
helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

But he claims that during his time in prison he was
interrogated by agents from countries including the UK and US
as a suspected al-Qaeda sympathiser.

Belhaj said he was beaten, hung from walls and cut off
from human contact and daylight, before being sentenced to
death during a 15-minute trial.

He said his wife was also imprisoned in Libya for four
months and released just before she gave birth, the BBC
reported.

They had been living in exile in Beijing, China after
Belhaj had led a low-level insurgency against Gaddafi.

In September, Belhaj told the BBC that after he was
captured he was tortured by the CIA and Gaddafi forces.

"What happened to me was illegal and it deserves an
apology," he said.

A spokeswoman for the legal campaign group Reprieve said
the UK government`s failure to issue an apology had led
Belhaj`s lawyers, from Leigh Day & Co, to send a letter
initiating legal action.

The government now has six months to respond, she said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said
it was government policy not to comment on intelligence
matters.

However, she added: "This government established the
Detainee Inquiry which will look at allegations of whether
Britain was involved in, or aware of, the improper treatment,
or rendition, of detainees held overseas by third parties in
the aftermath of 9/11.

The allegations in Belhaj`s case came to light after
documents abandoned by the Gaddafi regime were found by rebel
forces and representatives from human rights groups.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 21:05

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