Last updated: 13 December, 2012

UK to pay Libyan $3.5 million to settle rendition case

Britain has agreed to pay £2.2 million ($3.5 million, 2.7 million euros) to a Libyan dissident who says British secret services played a role in his illegal rendition, his lawyers said Thursday.

Sami al-Saadi, a leading opponent of Moamer Kadhafi, says he was forcibly transferred to Libya from Hong Kong along with his wife and four children in 2004 in a joint British-US-Libyan operation.

He says he was imprisoned and tortured after his return to Libya.

The British government said it had reached a settlement — believed to be £2.2 million — but said it has not admitted liability.

“We can confirm that the government and the other defendants have reached a settlement with the claimants,” a government spokeswoman said.

“There has been no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability.”

Al-Saadi said although he wanted Britain to acknowledge its role in his rendition, he was now ending his legal action.

“I started this process believing that a British trial would get to the truth in my case,” he said.

“But today, with the government trying to push through secret courts, I feel that to proceed is not best for my family.

“I went through a secret trial once before, in Kadhafi’s Libya. In many ways, it was as bad as the torture. It is not an experience I care to repeat.

“Even now, the British government has never given an answer to the simple question: ‘Were you involved in the kidnap of me, my wife and my children?’

“I think the payment speaks for itself. We will be donating a portion of the proceeds to support other Libyan torture victims.”

Al-Saadi also said he would use the payment for his children’s education in the “new, free Libya”, and to cover medical care for the injuries he says he received in prison.

His lawyers said evidence of British involvement in the rendition operation emerged after the overthrow of Kadhafi’s regime, in CIA correspondence with Libyan intelligence which was found in an office belonging to Moussa Koussa, the head of Kadhafi’s intelligence agency.

It apparently stated: “We are. . . aware that your service had been co-operating with the British to effect (Sami al-Saadi’s) removal to Tripoli. . . . The Hong Kong government may be able to co-ordinate with you to render (Sami al-Saadi) and his family into your custody.”

Britain still faces a further allegation of rendition from Abdelhakim Belhaj, who became Tripoli’s military commander after Kadhafi was ousted.