Abdel Hakim Belhadj

Date of Birth: 1 May 1966
Nationality: Libyan
Arrested: China, 2004
Current location: Libya

Gaddafi opponent Abdel Hakim Belhadj is taking legal action against the UK Government and its security services for their part in the illegal rendition and barbaric treatment of both himself and his pregnant wife in March 2004.

In 2004 Mr Belhadj was living in China with his wife, Fatima Bouchar, but with Ms Bouchar pregnant and fearing they were under surveillance, they decided to seek asylum in the UK. However, on trying to leave the country they were detained and deported to Malaysia, from where they had previously travelled.

On arrival in Kuala Lumpur they were immediately taken into the custody of Malaysian authorities. After being detained for some weeks, they were told that they would be allowed to travel to the UK, but only via Bangkok. The couple were then forced to board an aircraft, which flew them to Bangkok. On arrival, the couple were separated, handed over to US authorities and taken to what they believe was a US secret prison. There they were subjected to a barrage of barbaric treatment. In between his interrogation sessions, Mr Belhadj was hung by his wrists from hooks in his cell for prolonged periods, while hooded, blindfolded and viciously beaten. Ms Bouchar was also mistreated so severely that she finds it difficult to discuss even today.

The couple were then rendered by US authorities to Libya out of Bangkok. Mr Belhadj was hooded and shackled to the floor of the plane in a stress position, unable to sit or lie during the entire 17-hour flight. Neither he nor his wife was aware that the other was on the plane.

In Libya Mr Belhadj was detained for six years in some of the country’s most brutal jails and was interrogated by ‘foreign’ agents, including some from the UK. He was savagely beaten, hung from walls and cut off from human contact and daylight before being sentenced to death during a 15-minute trial about 4 years in to his detention. The beatings and inhumane treatment continued until 2010 when he was eventually released.

Ms Bouchar was imprisoned in Libya for four months. She was released just three weeks before giving birth, by which time her health, and that of her baby, was in a precarious state. She was also subjected to aggressive interrogations during her detention.
Evidence of the UK's role in the couple’s rendition is detailed in a number of documents held by the Libyan security services, which came to light subsequent to the fall of the Gadaffi regime.

These show how the UK alerted the Libyans to the couple's presence in Malaysia in early March. The UK’s role in the rendition is made clear in a letter from Sir Mark Allen, former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa Head of the Libyan intelligence agency at the time. In a letter dated 18 March 2004, Sir Mark passes on thanks for helping to sort out Tony Blair’s recent visit to Colonel Gaddafi.

In the letter Mr Allen says:

“Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Mr Balhadj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

Mr Allen goes on to say: “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu ‘Abd Allah through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on Abu ‘Abd Allah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful for the help you are giving us.”
On 12 January 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service and Metropolitan Police launched a criminal inquiry into the torture and rendition of Mr Belhadj and fellow Libyan Sami al Saadi.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj's case history


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