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  1. ITV Report

Libyan dissident who received Theresa May apology to use compensation money to help battle terrorism

Libya former rebels' Tripoli military commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj delivers his speech during a gathering against ousted Moammar Gadhafi. Credit: AP

A Libyan dissident and his wife, who received an apology from Theresa May over the UK’s involvement in their rendition in 2004, want to use some of their compensation money to help battle terrorism in Libya and the UK.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj was kidnapped and tortured by Muammar Gaddafi's forces after he was returned to the regime with then-pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, following a tip-off from MI6.

The couple said they were sent to Libya through a joint MI6-CIA operation linked to Tony Blair's infamous "deal in the desert" with the brutal dictator.

They fought a long battle with the Government for compensation, admission of guilt and prosecution, which led to an unprecedented apology from Theresa May in May last year.

Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj, after receiving a letter of apology from the UK government. Credit: AP

Mrs May wrote to the pair apologising for their "appalling treatment", adding that the Government "believes your accounts".

"The UK Government shared information about you with its international partners. We should have done more to reduce the risk that you would be mistreated. We accept this was a failing on our part," she said.

On the eve of the first anniversary of receiving that apology, the couple have released a statement, seen by ITV News, in which they explain their plans to use some of the £500,000 compensation received by Ms. Boudchar to “open a dialogue” between people in North Africa and the Middle East, and the UK, on “terrorism, Islamophobia, democratic transition and supporting women” in an effort to build “peace and harmony among the peoples of the region”.

Fatima Boudchar and her son Abderrahim Belhaj, 14, with lawyers as they arrive at the Houses of Parliament in 2018. Credit: PA

They hope to fund a not-for-profit organisation (NGO) they hope will battle terrorism in Libya and the UK.

In April, it was revealed that the Government’s legal battle against the couple had cost more than £11 million in public funds.

The Government defended the cost, saying had been right to defend the case because there was no admission of legal liability and insisted that legal fees were substantially negotiated down.

Libyan rebels' Tripoli military commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj (centre). Credit: AP

Mr Belhaj said: "Me and my wife’s exposure to torture and the threat to our lives and my imprisonment, was a bitter and painful experience for my family.

"Today it pleases us to announce our determination to set up a non-profit organisation that aims to set up dialogue between society, the British government and the peoples in the Middle East and North Africa region.

"It will open up a path towards dialogue on terrorism, Islamophobia, democratic transition and supporting women, in the interest of building peace and harmony among the peoples of the region, which suffers from both tyranny and terrorism."