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Human rights: UK officials urged to come clean over rendition claims

A Libyan national's lawsuit against former Home Secretary Jack Straw could finally shed light on the murky practice of sanctioned rendition of suspected terrorists for torture and detention without trial.

The case in question concerns Abdelhakin Belhaj, a former Libyan dissident who is now head of the Libyan armed forces after the deposing of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi last year.

Mr Belhaj is suing the British Government for their collusion with the former Libyan regime. This week Mr Belhaj announced that he will also sue the former Home Secretary under Labour, Jack Straw, for his part in sanctioning the rendition of Mr Belhaj by MI5.

The case came to light late last year, after the overthrowing of the Gaddafi regime led to the exposure of sensitive documentation held by the former government's Head of Security, Moussa Koussa in offices in the capital, Tripoli.

Amongst the documents found was said to be communications between the head of MI6, Mark Allen, and Mr Koussa, implying that MI6 had played a role in organising the rendition of Mr Belhaj from exile back to Libya. Mr Belhaj claims that he was tortured by the Libyan regime as a dissident.

MI6 has since said that it acted under policy sanctioned directly by the Government, implying that ministers were aware of the activity of the security services in such cases. However, the former Labour Government and Mr Straw in particular have claimed that they could not possibly have been aware of and sanctioned all the individual actions of the security forces.

The news that Mr Belhaj is to sue Mr Straw is unprecedented in UK law, and raises the prospect that further details of the case will be heard in open court, casting light on an up till now murky area of government.

It is known that MI6 has offered Mr Belhaj £1m in order to settle the case out of court and avoid details coming into the public domain. It remains to be seen whether this offer will be increased in the coming weeks and months.

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