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Libyan wins right to sue ex-British minister over rendition

The UK's Supreme Court has ruled that a former Libyan militant can sue an ex-foreign minister over his rendition. The government failed in its appeal to prevent the legal action.

The court ruled on Tuesday that Abdel Hakim Belhaj (pictured above in 2012), a rebel leader who helped topple Libya's longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi, was free to seek damages against former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Britain's domestic and foreign spy agencies MI5 and MI6.

Judges dismissed an appeal by the UK government seeking to prevent the case proceeding.

In a statement, the court said that state immunity would not prevent the claims from proceeding.

Six-year detention

Belhaj - who was leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, says that in 2004 he and his pregnant wife were abducted by US CIA agents in Thailand and then illegally transferred to Tripoli with the help of British spies.

Jack Straw (Picture-Alliance/dpa)

Ex-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw could now face trial

As a long-standing enemy of the former Libyan leader, he was imprisoned and tortured until his release in 2010 while his wife was also mistreated during her four-month incarceration.

Belhaj later became Tripoli's military commander after Gadhafi was ousted in 2011 and is now a politician.

Apology sought

He claims British involvement in his illegal rendition but has promised to drop the case if he was given a token payment of 1 pound ($1.21, 1.15 euro) and an apology from all the parties involved.

"We hope that the defendants in this action now see fit to apologize to our clients and acknowledge the wrongs done, so that they may turn the page on this wretched chapter of their lives and move on," said lawyer Sapna Malik from Leigh Day, the London law firm representing Belhaj.

Straw responded to the ruling in a statement saying: "As foreign secretary I acted at all times in a manner which was fully consistent with my legal duties and with national and international law.

"I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states," Straw said.

As well as Straw, who was Britain's foreign minister in 2004, former senior MI6 counter-terrorism officer Mark Allen could also face trial.

Watch video 42:33

Quadriga - Liberating Libya: The Failed Intervention

mm/se (AFP, Reuters)

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